A RIGHT THEOLOGY
For most of the last twenty years I have given myself to teaching and mobilizing prayer. Though it is a great privilege, it is also frustrating at times. For a very long time I felt that if Christians were just more committed, they would pray more. If they loved Jesus more, they would pray more. That led me to hit hard at levels of commitment in my teaching.But the Lord has recently been showing me that it isn’t commitment, it’s theology. Most of the pastors and church leaders that I teach and work with are completely committed. They are sold out for Jesus. They will do anything for Him. The lack of prayer in their lives has much more to do with theology than with lack of commitment.
The American church, in particular, believes poorly concerning prayer. We look at prayer as a way of getting things from God. Or we look at it mainly as something that helps move us spiritually. Sometimes we even look at much prayer as in the realm of specialists, rather than for “regular” Christians.
What will really transform our prayer lives is when we begin to believe what the Bible says about prayer. When we begin to see that prayer is the way God has chosen to accomplish His will on planet earth, we will move it to a more central place in our lives. Right theology on prayer moves it from somewhere on our “to do” list to an integral part of who we are as Christians.
WAITING IS GOOD FOR US
WAITING IS GOOD FOR US
I’m sitting on a plane, hoping they can fix the tire and we can take off only an hour delayed. I do a lot of this . . . sitting and waiting in and around airplanes. It’s good for me. I’m not a patient person by nature. I don’t like delays. I’ve got stuff to do! That’s why this is good for me.
Learning to wait is critical for the life of prayer. Scripture is filled with commands about waiting on God. “LORD, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God” (Psalm 38:14-16). “But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me” (Micah 7:6-8). Why waiting? Because it’s good for us. Lamentations 3:26 reminds us “It is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD.” Waiting takes me off of my schedule and my agenda and . . . if I do it properly puts me on God’s schedule and His agenda.
So now . . . I wait. Rather than fret, I close my eyes and turn my thoughts to the Lord. I ask Him what His agenda is for this day. And . . . I write the blog I needed to write!
8:59 AM Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Dave, your comments on waiting on God are excellent, and have blessed me. I want to pass along to you a poem which the Lord gave me many months ago as I meditated on Romans 8:28. It relates to what you said. Lord bless. God Works Behind the Scenes Romans 8:28 God works behind the scenes His wonders to perform How wondrous are those works We stand in awe of each one of them When things happen we can’t explain Just pause to consider – He is busy at work. Don’t doubt, don’t get up tight Our God is in control Satan would make us always doubt ‘He never believes God’s Word. He knows not the mind of God, And he hates to see His plan succeed. But when we see God’s works in motion Believe He is perfecting His Word. He performs what pleases Himself, And in the process we are blessed. Don’t fret and fume and get upset. God is on His throne in heaven. He also lives within our hearts – And there He ordains His peace. “I know the thoughts I think toward you, Thoughts of peace and not of evil, To give you an expected end.” Those words of God to Jeremiah are true. Behind the scenes we know God is at work To faithfully execute His plan. Time is but the schedule He’s set Which He never fails to bring to pass. Halleluiah! Praise the Lord! From age to age we worship Him ‘Cause He is faithful to keep His Word – And His Word is changeless. “Never be anxious”, says the Lord. “Never worry when you don’t understand. My thoughts are often beyond your grasp ‘Cause I AM God and you are man. “Just stand in awe and praise Me. Bow in reverence before My majesty. Say, with the angels, ‘Halleluiah! You alone are worthy. You alone know best ‘”. Lord of all, I’ve heard Your voice You’ve spoken, oh, so clearly. Let me never, ever, doubt your love. I know what You say is so. All things do work together for good, To those who love You, To those who are called According to Your glorious purposes. Remember…God does work behind the scenes. Remember…He is on the throne. Remember…He is always in control. Remember…all is for our good. Amen and Amen.
CAN PRAYER REALLY SAVE AMERICA?
CAN PRAYER REALLY SAVE AMERICA?
It’s an important question you know. “Can prayer save America?” It’s much more than a clever theme for a magazine. The answer might well determine the future of our nation.
I’m convinced this first issue of Prayer Connect will impact Christians around the planet to pray more fervently and effectively for the United States. That’s a good thing. It’s always a good thing. Clear, biblically based prayer always releases the power of God into a situation in God’s timing and in God’s way.
But it still doesn’t answer the question. Can prayer save America? Sure, if saving America is what God wants to do. Then prayer will be absolutely essential. Prayers of confession and repentance can bring us to that safe place of humility before God. Intercessory prayers to release salvation, revival, justice, compassion, and mercy will become commonplace and powerful. We can see amazing cultural transformation.
Let’s not however, move into this season of prayer for America with the assumption that God wants to save America. Wouldn’t it be safer (as well as probably more correct theologically) to assume that as a nation we are deserving of judgment? Then our prayers will take on a more desperate attitude. We will find ourselves in tears, pleading for mercy, and hoping for grace. The churches of America should even now be filled with penitent believers, fearing the judgment of God upon a nation that has step by step turned from His ways.
Praying the News
Praying the News
I’ve shared before how my father in a sense first opened the door for me to look at world events as connected with God’s Word and His purposes unfolding on planet Earth. It has been a joy and an exciting adventure to watch the news on television or read a newspaper and see happenings as something more than a depiction of events that are out of my control. Instead, the very things taking place around us are an indication that God is indeed in control and has put in His word some amazing details of what is about to happen.
All too often, Christians feel powerless and at the mercy of a very big world. Watching or reading of news events can feel like an exercise in futility and even worse, bring a sense of anxiety and worry into our lives. One way to deal with this is to shut yourself off from the world. Turn off the television news and unsubscribe to your daily newspaper. Doing so may provide temporary relief, but certainly does nothing to change the situation.
There is a better way. It involves a commitment to change your world through prayer. It happens as you see God’s commitment to prayer as a change agent. You begin to see yourself as a player on the world stage. Rather than passively watching and worrying, or ignoring and hiding, you begin to take significant action to bring God’s power to bear on situations going on in the world. You pray!
The Bible is filled with examples of God’s people watching political and national events unfold around them, and then intervening through prayer to bring change. Sometimes a national leader, such as King Asa or King Jehoshaphat of Judah, prayed when faced with a crisis. In both cases, a military attack against the nation was overcome by the prayer of a godly leader.
Sometimes, though, the intervention of God comes through the prayers of more common people, such as Anna and Simeon in the New Testament. These two faithful prayer warriors were watching the signs of the times and understanding the prophetic Old Testament scriptures that pointed to the soon appearing of the Messiah. God used their prayers to prepare for Messiah’s coming in ways that we won’t understand until heaven.
A group of ordinary believers crowded into a house in Jerusalem when they heard that the Apostle Peter had been arrested and was chained to a prison wall. What a different twist world history would have taken without the powerful leadership of Peter! But God heard the prayers of these little-known believers and sent an angel to release Peter, allowing him to continue helping shape and lead the fledgling church for years.
Throughout church history, God has used the prayers of believers to change the flow of events and alter what might have been. One of the more dramatic instances of this occurred during World War II and involved the small group of intercessors that gathered in Great Britain under the leadership of Rees Howell. Again and again, God led them to pray over particular battles and situation, many of which they could not have known about through their natural senses. In numerous situations, the Lord used their prayers to ensure victory and change human history.
Obviously, in cases like this, the prayers by themselves did not bring about victory. Men and women in dangerous places fought fierce battles and some paid the ultimate price. But the prayers of Rees Howell and his band of intercessors brought the power of God into the battles and altered history. For further reading on this amazing story, I recommend Norman Grubb’s book, Rees Howell: Intercessor.
Most of us don’t feel like world changers. We’re just trying to get through to the end of the week. But God has provided an amazing opportunity for us to join with Him in intercession and see His power bring transformation. Making the most of this opportunity will take a change of attitude and a different way of responding to the news.
Changing our attitude is probably the most difficult. That’s why I’ve spent the time I have to point out that God has always used people’s prayers to bring about changes in world events. If we believe God, then our attitude will begin to shift from passivity to action. Rather than sitting and complaining about things as we watch the news or read the newspaper, we will begin to pray to bring about change. A changed attitude—agreeing with God that someone ought to do something and that He (God) is probably the best someone—will bring us into serious prayer.
That changed attitude will cause us to redeem the time we are using to become aware of world and national events. We begin to approach the evening news or morning newspaper as serious times of prayer. Instead of passive intake, we move into aggressive intervention. I call it prayer!
Let’s talk about some practical ways to pray about the news.
First of all, decide to become mentally and spiritually prepared and involved. Very intentional praying is required. It doesn’t happen accidentally. We don’t just sit down to watch a news show and in the midst of a particular segment suddenly remember or decide to pray. This is not bad, but it is so irregular. Make a decision to sit down and watch the news as a prayer event. It will change everything about your experience.
Second, ask the Lord to guide you as you pray. There are so many times we respond to events by telling God what He should do. You’d think we would have learned that He really isn’t looking for our advice. He is, however, looking for our cooperation in releasing His power into situations. Many times the best question we can ask is, “God, what are You doing in this situation?” Then follow that up by asking, “God, what do You want to do?” Then pray with God’s heart about what you are seeing.
Third, watch the news with God. Invite Him into the experience with you. Ask Him to allow you to see things from His perspective. Things that didn’t formerly upset you may cause you to weep in sorrow. Other things that used to make you angry now may become side issues. His ways are so far beyond ours!
Fourth, bring your journal to your prayer time. By your prayer time, I’m talking about your time of watching the news or reading the newspaper. Journal what you are praying about. Write down insights the Lord provides over situations you are watching.
Fifth, ask the Lord if there are any actions for you to take as a result of what you saw and prayed. Prayer is always the first step but rarely the last. You may need to write a letter to someone involved in a news story. You might be called to give money to someone or something. There might be action steps for your family, especially as it relates to preparation for difficult days ahead. The Lord may direct you to change where your money is invested. He may even call you to move from one city (or nation) to another. Prayerful watching can help prepare you to be a more effective servant in the Lord’s hands.
Sixth, bring your Bible with you when you watch the news or read the newspaper. As you pay closer attention to the prophetic Word of God, you will often be reminded of a passage of scripture as you are watching or reading. Having your Bible with you will help you look up passages and verify that you are, in fact, literally living the Bible as you see things happen right before your eyes.
I will never forget June 6, 1967. I was almost fourteen years old. Dad was watching television news and called me in to watch with him. Pointing to the news that Israeli forces had just taken possession of the Temple Mount and the rest of Jerusalem, he said, “You’ve just seen a fulfillment of Bible prophecy. Jesus said that Jerusalem would be trampled on by the Gentiles until the time of the Gentiles was fulfilled. Now you’ve seen it with you own eyes.” That was a powerful demonstration for me of how to view the news through biblical eyes. In the very near future, you will see many such things if you are watching.
That brings me to another practical idea: Bring others to your prayer meeting. If you live with family, invite them to join you as you pray about the news. What a wonderful way to teach your children or spouse how to join their prayers to God’s purposes. Perhaps you could have a weekly time when you invite friends to your home to pray about the news with you. What dramatic times of intercession might be unleashed as we pray together over the great events of our day!
Father, give me eyes to see what is happening around me. Help me to see things from Your perspective. I choose to use times of exposure to news from around the world as valuable times of intercession. Help me to be disciplined in praying as I watch and read. Show me how You would have me pray. Thank You for allowing me to be a part of what You are doing in the world today.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
1. Have you ever tried to pray regularly as you watched or read the news? Was it easy or hard for you? Why?
2. Can you think of biblical examples where individuals prayed and national or world events changed? What incidents come to mind?
3. Has there been a particular news event that prompted you to pray? What about that event caused you to pray?
Why Fasting Is Relevant for Today
Why Fasting Is Relevant for Today
Perhaps no spiritual discipline today is as much misunderstood as fasting. Why to fast, how to fast, when to fast, how long to fast, what type of fast, SHOULD I fast…etc. In simplest terms, fasting means to abstain from food for a period of time for a spiritual purpose or goal.
As a Christian, obviously the first question we need to ask is, “What does Jesus say about this?” It is obvious in Scripture that Jesus fasted, but because He did, does that mean that we ought to as well?
In Matthew 6, Jesus discusses three specific spiritual activities and gives instructions as to how the disciples should perform these activities in a way that is pleasing to God. His language indicates that He assumes the disciples would already be doing these three things: “When you give…when you pray…when you fast…” This is an interesting combination. There is not a believer who would argue that God does not expect us to pray or to give, but when we talk about fasting, all sorts of arguments begin to be put forth as to why fasting isn’t for today.
For many in this busy, self-centered world, fasting is just not an option, or even a consideration, even though we see numerous references to fasting throughout the Scriptures: (Joel 1:14-15, Nehemiah 1:4, Daniel 9:3, Luke 2:37, Acts 13:3 to name only a few).
Because Jesus modeled the practice of fasting (Matthew 4:1-2), and took the time to instruct His disciples in the discipline, it should be a pretty strong indication that He still desires us to fast today.
Although not everyone is called to the same levels of fasting, we believe Scripture indicates that all Christians who seek to grow and mature should remain sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit in this area. (Note: Fasting is never intended to be done out of guilt, or in cases where it is medically unsafe. If you are unable to fast from food because of medical reasons, please consider fasting from something that would be a sacrifice for you – TV watching, for example. Set aside that time to seek the Lord instead).
Ronnie Floyd, in his excellent book,”The Power of Prayer and Fasting”, has, perhaps one of the most concise and understandable exhortations to fast: “God’s gateway to supernatural power can become ours when we come to our heavenly Father with contrite hearts and obedient spirits in fasting and prayer.” He goes on to say, “One purpose of prayer and fasting is to bring our hearts to a place of being filled with a sacrificial love that results in godly attitudes in our lives. True fasting will draw us closer to God and His purposes.”
We see three main purposes in Scripture for fasting.
• It allows us to come before God in humility and repentance.
• It helps us to focus on God, and to become sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
• It empowers us through God for service.
God’s Word tells us that God “opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). How can we walk in humility before our God? By recognizing that humility puts us in a position to be able to receive from Him. As individuals, families, churches, communities and nations, we are in desperate need of a fresh touch from God…of hearing His voice instead of the clamor around us! We live in a society of “I’ll do it myself” mentality. However, there always comes a time when “self” just can’t do it anymore. Eventually, we realize that we are not God, but we do NEED Him.
That was the situation in Judah during Jehoshaphat’s day. An army from several nations was on the march against them. Outnumbered and in despair, they turned to God and fasted and prayed. Their fasting put them in a place of humility where they could pray the right prayer. Jehoshaphat’s prayer, after they had fasted, was not a prayer asking God to bless their efforts or to do what they wanted Him to do. Instead, it was an astonishing prayer of humility in which he said, “O Lord, we do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (2 Chronicles 20:2-12). Fasting brings us to a proper place of humility before God where we are able to pray such a prayer of faith and dependence.
Fasting also helps us to focus ourselves upon God and the leading of His Holy Spirit. Doing without food for a period of prayer helps us to put away distractions and to turn to Jesus. We are living in a day in which Jesus is calling His Church back into an intimate relationship with Himself – a time when we come directly to Him and get to know Him deeply.
Christian author, Steve Hawthorne, recently described a seven day fast he experienced as he was seeking direction for his ministry. At the end of the fast, a friend asked him if he had received the guidance he was seeking. Steve replied, “Probably not…but I do know the Guide better now.” Where is your focus?
Fasting is also a way for us to be empowered by God for service. There seems to be a release of spiritual power when fasting and prayer are combined. The great men and women of God down through the ages have come to God in prayer and fasting to receive power for greater ministry. Jesus Himself launched His ministry after a forty day fast. Esther went to the king for mercy and salvation for Israel. It was her day of greatness and ministry to God’s people, but it happened after a three day fast undertaken by herself and many others.
Our ability to be empowered by God for service, relates back to the first two points. When we humble ourselves and draw near to the Lord through fasting and prayer, then we are ready to receive power to be used in God’s service in an even greater way than ever before. Having learned humility and intimacy, we can be entrusted with greater power because we realize that it is not our doing, but God working in and through us.
God desires to raise up a people who will surrender their lives to be used by Him in these critical days. Without God’s people being set ablaze in prayer and fasting, the revival He longs to send cannot happen. Evil will continue to pervade the earth, and Christians will continue to watch weakly, wishing there was something they could do.
We believe that fasting is part of God’s plan for His children. Ronnie Floyd says, “Unless we surrender completely to God’s plan, we are destined to drift in a sea of disappointment, disillusionment, and depression. We are in constant need of supernatural power.” Elmer Towns has said, “If every Christian fasted, the results could shake our society like a windstorm bending a sapling. Christians would demonstrate that they live differently, that their faith is imperative, that the Almighty works in their daily lives.”
Reading about fasting is not enough. Seek God to know what He is saying to you personally about this vital spiritual discipline. How will you respond?
–Dave Butts was the co-founder and President of Harvest Prayer Ministries until his death in 2022.