God, Lead Me!
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
How do you go about making difficult decisions? What steps do you take?
In the past, when I had a tough decision to make, the first thing I would do was write down the pros and cons. Then, I would talk to my wife, asking what she thinks should be done. Then, I would speak with a close friend, a trusted confidante, whose thoughts I trust and respect. Only then, would I bring the decision to the Lord in prayer. Often, simply to ask him to bless the decision I was about to make.
This passage began a process of change in me. Jesus had a very difficult decision to make. We do not know how many people were already following him. We can be certain there were more than 12. Choosing a few of those who were following him was probably going to cause a few not chosen to second guess his choice. I can hear the grumbling, “Why did he choose him and not me?” There is no indication Jesus set up a “flow-chart” to make his choice easier. There is no indication he called his cousin John for some helpful advice, or his mom to give him a few suggestions.
Instead, we are told he went to a private place, up on the mountainside, and prayed. He spoke with his Father, our Father, and listened for his direction. His prayer sought his Father’s direction. He did his Father’s will (cf.-John 6:38).
What Pleases God?
The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” (vv. 17, 21-22)
He looked up at me, his eyes wide open in excited wonder, and asked, “Did you see that, dad? Did you?” We were walking along the river, and not 10 feet away from us a fish had come up out of the water, to catch a bug. My son was filled with wonder and amazement at the sight. For the next few minutes, we stood there, watching, waiting, hoping another fish would leap from the water. None took the leap, but the one who did was enough to talk about for the next few minutes. Later, it was the chief topic of conversation at the dinner table.
The 72 returned from their evangelistic mission full of wonder and amazement. The air was filled with their excited voices. They shared their experiences. One told of a woman who one moment was deathly sick, then fully recovered. A second told of a man from whom a demonic spirit had been cast. A third told of a lame boy whose legs were healed, the last they had seen him, he was running off to play with the other children in the village.
Jesus was ecstatic. He thanked his Father. Sharing in the joy filled reports of those he had sent out into the world. His prayer for us, “Keep the wonder! Keep the excitement! Expect great things from God, he wants to work in and through us!”
Shepherd Me, Lord
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
The Shepherd Psalm is perhaps the best known and most frequently quoted of all the Psalms. It is used at many funerals and memorial services. It is read in times of struggle and distress. It is a prayer that brings comfort and speaks peace when the heart is troubled. The words of the Psalm remind us, we do not have to journey this way alone. God, our God, is with us. He is on our side and working in the very middle of our dark situation!
As we pray this Psalm, listen to the words. We read, “… you are with me…” Our God does not abandon us to our enemy! Again, “… your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” The shepherd’s rod and staff provide protection from wild animals, extending the shepherd’s reach to keep his flock from harm. The Psalm continues, “You prepare a table before me…” The shepherd brings his flock to the best grazing pastures, where they can safely graze to their heart’s content.
The prayer concludes with the words: “Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” The shepherd brings his prize sheep into his home. There the sheep find true peace and the ultimate security.
Remember Jesus’ words: “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me…” (John 10:14)
My Soul Thirsts
As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
These things I remember as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go with the multitude,
leading the procession to the house of God,
with shouts of joy and thanksgiving
among the festive throng.
I learned to ride a bicycle when I was 5 years old, on my sister’s bike. When Christmas came, later that year, I wanted a bike of my own. I hated riding a “girl’s” bike around the neighborhood. The bike I wanted was a 3 speed Schwinn, red and black, with hand brakes. It was my dream bike. When we were downtown, I would linger outside the window at Sears and stare at the bikes. When I visited Santa, the one thing I asked him to bring, was that red and black, 3 speed Schwinn!
When Christmas came, there was a bike waiting for me. It was not a 3 speed Schwinn. It was red and black. It was a let down, for a while. But, then, I realized it was mine, it was a “boy’s” bike, and I rode it all around the neighborhood.
When we thirst for God. He does not leave us thirsting. He never gives us second-best! When we long for him, he gives us his very presence, he meets us right where we are!
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ–to the glory and praise of God. (vv.3-6, 9-11)
Several years ago, I was challenged to write down my prayers. I found it was much more difficult than it sounded. After several failed attempts, starting and stopping and starting and stopping again, I finally succeeded in doing it for a period of three months. You may be wondering, what did he learn from the experience?
Here is what I learned. First, within a few days, I discovered my prayers were mostly about me. I spent a lot of time asking God to give me stuff. I don’t think I am super self focused, but those first several prayers had a lot of “God, I need…” in them. Second, I realized I didn’t spend much time listening for God’s word back to me. My prayer time was very focused on what I had to say. Third, I saw I needed to learn how to worship God. It was a very good thing for me. Now, from time to time, I pick up the pen (or tablet), and record my prayers, again.
Paul’s prayer would be a good starting place for your own practice of writing out your prayers. Let him be your guide.
There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to place his hand on the man. After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means, “Be opened!”). At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly. (vv. 32-35)
There are two prayers here. I want us to look at them both. The first prayer is the prayer of the friends of the man who was deaf. They came to Jesus, having exhausted all other methods for his healing. They had tried the physicians of the day, and their friend still could not hear and could barely talk. They came to Jesus as a last resort, having heard that he was a man of God and a powerful healer and might be able to help their friend. They prayed, begging Jesus to place his hand on him. I commend their faith. They prayed a simple prayer, “Lord, touch our friend.”
They didn’t know what to expect from Jesus. I would imagine what he did next was not remotely on their list. He put his fingers in the man’s ears, then he spit and touched his tongue. Do you think they might have said, “NO! Don’t do that!” It seems they were willing to trust Jesus to do what was needed, they stood by and watched.
Jesus prayed the next prayer. First, the prayer was uttered as a “deep sigh”. Jesus hated what sin had done to these people he came to save! Then, he spoke, “Be OPENED!” This was not a request, it was a command. The ears were closed and the tongue stuck no more! The man could hear and speak! I am thinking there was a third prayer, a prayer praising God!
Better Is One Day!
Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.
O LORD Almighty, blessed is the man who trusts in you. (vv. 10-12)
Charles Spurgeon, commenting on this passage, wrote: “God’s worst is better than the devil’s best. God’s doorstep is a happier rest than downy couches within the pavilions of royal sinners, though we might be there for a lifetime of luxury” (Spurgon, Treasury of David, 359).
Jesus said, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26)
Our prayer is the visible expression of our heart’s desire to dwell eternally in the very presence of Almighty God. Our standing before God, in an attitude of prayer, with hearts open to Him, speaks this message: “Here is where I long to be! Lord, fill me with your presence. Let me experience more and more of you, today!” Continual prayer declares, “I stake my life on this one foundation, God’s presence, great grace, and amazing love!”
When we pray, our words and our actions give voice to our trust in our faithful God. Consider this, Almighty God, Creator of all that is, our Defender and Provider, Savior and Sanctifier, has chosen to spend time with us! He has chosen to hear and respond to us! Blessed is the man or woman who trusts in HIM!
The men turned away and went toward Sodom, but Abraham remained standing before the LORD . Then Abraham approached him and said: “Will you sweep away the righteous with the wicked?”
What is meant when Scripture tells us to make intercession for someone? One person wrote: “Intercession is prayer that pleads with God for your needs and the needs of others. But it is also much more than that. Intercession involves taking hold of God’s will and refusing to let go until His will comes to pass.” (CBN.com)
We have seen that Jesus intercedes for us, on our behalf. He comes before the Father, pleading our cause. Can you hear him? “Lord, consider my child, Bob, forgive his weakness and sin. Cleanse his heart and make him new.” Realize he is right now interceding for you!
We are invited to intercede for others. To seek God’s will and purpose to be done in and through them. We should be interceding for our family and friends. We should be making intercession for our pastors and the people who are the Church we attend. We are commanded in Scripture to make intercession for those who lead us: “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior…” (1 Timothy 2:1-3)
We are even to intercede for sinful men and women, that they might be saved. Abraham intercedes for Sodom. We read just the first few words. Abraham pleads for the city to be saved, for the sake of just a few righteous. Are we ready to pray for the ungodly to be saved?
Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25
Making Intercession for Us!
“Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Rom. 8:34)
“Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” (Heb. 7:25)
We are now moving into the fifth week of Lent. As we move closer to the Cross and Resurrection Day, it is appropriate to pause and consider Jesus’ passion for us and our salvation.
Paul, in Romans 8, asks, “Who is he that condemns?” He answers his question with the statement (my paraphrase), “Not Jesus, He died for us and more, was raised to life for us! He is not about to speak against us, instead he is constantly speaking in our defense!”
If anyone has a right to judge us, it would be Jesus. Scripture tells us, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:25). Instead of condemning us, he intercedes for us. We have been tempted and we have sinned, but Jesus still comes to our defense.
Have you ever been falsely accused? How did you respond to their accusation? Did you have anyone come to your defense? Would it have been helpful? If you have been falsely accused, a strong defender is invaluable. To have someone come forward and speak up for you brings comfort and great freedom. Jesus is our defender.
We can enter God’s presence, knowing he will hear and respond to our prayers, because Jesus is on our side. We do not need to be afraid of God, Jesus is with us!
To Him Who Is Able
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 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. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, 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. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
This great prayer of the Apostle Paul is one of my favorites. I want to remember the only thing that limits God is my faith, my trust in him.
The prayer begins with the words, “for this reason…” Let’s look back a few verses to find the reason for the prayer. I want us to think about this. First, the good news of the Gospel has been extended to us, gentiles, people far removed from God. Because Jesus came to include us, we have access to God. Listen to these words: “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with confidence” (3:12).
When we pray, we have God’s ear. He is anxious to spend time with us, as we spend time with him.