Thank You HELP I'm sorry Protect us You are wonderful I need You Teach me Increase my faith You're awesome Use me I love You WOW Yes I will
How important is intercessory prayer? Do our prayers for others actually help?
Study Jesus in Gethsemane (Matt 26:35-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46). In His time of greatest agony He asked his friends to pray for Him. Think of it. The God who created all the universe was hurting so much He asked for the prayers of his closest friends.
But before He asked for their prayers, He asked for their companionship. He asked them to go a little farther, stay awake a little longer, pay a little more attention, give a little more of their energy and time on his behalf.
And they did so, for awhile. Then they went to sleep.
All too often we say to a hurting neighbor or acquaintance “I’m sorry things are so tough for you right now. I’ll keep you in my prayers.” Then we turn and walk away, unwilling to give a bit our our time and energy to help ease their pain. Our lack of action shows how we refuse to let the problems of others intrude on our own comfort zone.
Oh, such prayers do help, if we actually remember them. We can certainly be of assistance by praying. But if we, like the disciples, are called on to go a little farther and give practical aid and comfort, are we willing to do so? In our Christian growth have we allowed God to develop in us a sense of “disruptive compassion” – the willingness to let the needs of others disrupt our normal pattern of life?
Last night, in a dream, I saw Jesus. Not Jesus the God, but Jesus the man. I was surprised. He looked normal. Not unusual. Just normal. Short and stocky, Strong and solid, with Black curly hair. Almost instantly I realized I was Disappointed. Here was Jesus, and He looked so very Human. Then I met Him and Shook His hand. And there, Face to face, Arm's length away With His hand in mine I first looked Into His eyes. And immediately I knew I was meeting More than a man. In His eyes I saw Love. Total, open, complete Love. Love with no exceptions Or limits. Love that does not Have to be earned Or even returned. Pure love. Enormous love. Powerful love. Tender love. Giving love. But in those eyes I also saw Compassion and Acceptance and Forgiveness. I saw calmness and Understanding and Power. I saw peace and Courage and Purpose. Then I knew I was also looking Into the eyes of God.
In John 10:14 Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep…” When He told Peter to feed the sheep, He was giving Peter the responsibility for the care and feeding of the flock.
The sheep belonged to Jesus. He had a personal relationship with each of them. He knew them by name and He loved them . But his earthly ministry was almost over and He was passing the shepherd’s staff to Peter.
He did not ask Peter if he wanted to be a shepherd. He simply gave Peter an assignment He knew was within Peter’s capability. Because Peter loved his savior he was expected to be obedient to the task.
God calls each of his children to help tend his sheep. He intends for each of us to help care for a flock and each of us to receive care from someone else. Such interdependence among Christians will result in the effective spreading of the gospel.
As we each give and receive care, God is glorified in our lives. If we choose not to perform our shepherd’s duties, others suffer. If we refuse to listen to the guidance of the Good Shepherd, we suffer.
Our motive for being a shepherd must be our love for him. We must love others because He loves us. We must serve others because He served us. We must give our time and energy to others because He gave his life for us.
It is dangerous for us to try to serve those He has put into our care if we do not love them. We are likely to become discouraged, resentful and angry. Such emotions disrupt our relationship with him.
It is dangerous for the flock because our attitude will lead them away from him and the blessings He has for them. They will sense our insincerity and rebel against his leadership.
We must always remember they are his sheep, not ours. We must love and feed them because we love him.
Jesus said “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John14:15) Clearly and concisely, He stated the link between love and obedience. If we love Him we must learn to obey Him.
But obedience does not come easily or naturally. Children do not want to obey parents, students do not want to obey teachers, adults do not want to obey the law. Obedience is difficult. Always has been. Always will be.
Disobedience is a sin. When Jesus spoke these words to his disciples He knew what He was demanding would not easy for them. From childhood He, himself, had to learn to be obedient to his parents. He “was tempted in every way that we are But He did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15 CEV) Because He loved his heavenly Father, He learned to obey. He asks of us only what He has already experienced himself.
He first learned obedience in his home. Sometimes this learning experience involved suffering. (Hebrews 5:8) But his life-long obedience was necessary in order for him to be the spotless sacrifice for our sins. And it was his early obedience that laid the groundwork which enabled him to say in Gethsemane “nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.” (Mark 14:36)
His love was demonstrated by the obedience that sent him to the cross. Our salvation depends on that obedience. Our love must be demonstrated by an obedience that sends us into the world. (Matthew 28:19-20) He is the example we must follow.
MY LOVE FOR GOD IS NO GREATER THAN MY OBEDIENCE TO GOD
When I start to pray I am being granted entrance into the very throne room of heaven, into the presence of the Creator of the universe. I have the undivided attention of the Almighty.
I am not worthy of such a privilege even once in my lifetime, let alone every moment of every day.
What if God limited the times I could pray to Him. For instance, what if I could pray only one hour per year, from 1:00-2:00 p.m. on my birthday. Would I then enter His presence lightly, with scattered focus, interrupted thoughts and glib phrases? I don’t think so.
If such were the case, my prayers would be intense and organized and full of passion. I would be aware of the tremendous responsibility and privilege, determined to make the best of my hour with God.
Why should my current prayer times be any different? Even though my Father grants me constant entrance into His presence, I need to be always aware of the magnitude of this privilege. I should not enter His presence without the proper respect and gratitude simply for the privilege of going there.
This should be my attitude even before I make petitions and receive blessings.
Which is the greatest prayer in the Bible? The answer to this question is usually based on which prayer had the largest, most impressive result. Elijah's prayer in I Kings 17:20-22 brought life to the body of a young boy. Joshua's prayer in Joshua 10:12-13 resulted in altered movement of the sun and an Israelite victory. Moses' prayer in Exodus 32:11-14 caused God to "repent" of His idea to "consume" the Hebrew people. Each of these, in some way, worked for the benefit of the person praying. I maintain, however, that the greatest prayer of all was offered by Jesus in Matthew 26:39 when He said "...not as I will, but as you will." Simple and short, from a totally submitted heart, this prayer was answered by Jehovah God and ended in Jesus' torture and death. They both knew that death was imminent and both accepted it. The result was the offering of salvation to untold numbers of people throughout the world. And it serves as the type of prayer that Christians should be offering every day. The greatest prayer resulted in the greatest sacrifice and the greatest resurrection the world has ever known.
When Peter said "I'm going fishing"(John 21:3), he was planning to return to his previous, before-Jesus way of life. He needed to be doing something while he sorted out the full meaning of Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection. He had earlier declared he would follow Jesus, but now there was no Jesus to follow. Then Jesus appeared on the lake shore and asked "Peter, do you love me more than these?"(John 21:15.) Jesus already knew the answer, but He wanted Peter to do a self-examination concerning his love for the Master. "Do you love me more than these"...more than the life of a fisherman, more than family, more than boats and possessions? Was his love for Jesus greater than his love for the totality of all else? Jesus earlier taught a love that required "heart, soul and mind." (Matt. 2:37) Did Peter have it? We are asked the same question each day. Each morning as we face sixteen active hours of our lives we have to decide if we love Him to that extent. If we answer "Yes", He then challenges us to prove it by being light and salt to the world. Why should we be light? So others can see Jesus. Why do we want them to see Jesus? So together we can glorify God. Each day we plan our routine by saying something such as "I'm going to work" or "I have to run some errands." And it is good to have constructive ways to fill our time. God does not call most of us to make our earthly living through full-time "Feed my sheep" (John 21:15) activities. But engaging in the necessary patterns of life must not mean "God, you wait here until I get my tasks done. Then I'll be back and we can talk some more." We must constantly be aware of his question "Do you love me more than these?" An affirmative answer will produce a life that is holy,set apart for His glory. Before we can successfully feed His sheep we must become like the Good Shepherd.
Faith and obedience are as inseparable as the two sides of a coin.
God sometimes calls us to acts of obedience that have the possibility of undesirable consequences. We hesitate. We procrastinate. We rationalize. Then, finally, we call our weak faith into play and do the thing He has asked.
And because He is our Father He still supports and protects us. The possible unpleasant results do not happen. Our faith grows stronger. We are more willing to be obedient next time.
So each act of obedience results in increased faith. That increased faith, in turn, brings about a more instant, joyful and confident obedience the next time He calls. We become more mature Christians because of the upward spiraling interplay between these two spiritual aspects of our lives.
James was referring to this connection when he wrote “anyone can see that I have faith by the way I act”(James 2:18 LB) It was obedience that directed James’ actions. He was doing the things God selected for him to do, not the things he had chosen for himself.
If we are disobedient, we need to ask the Father for increased faith that will give us the courage to obey. If we lack strong faith we need to act in obedience anyway and our faith will be strengthened when we observe his protection and provision.
And our reward for increased faith and obedience? The greatest reward of all: “Well done” from our Father. (Matt 25:21 LB)
We rejoice in the fact that we live “under grace” rather than “under the law.” We feel that law-living, with all the “thou shalls” and “thou shall nots,” would be a demanding, dreary existence. By contrast we see grace-living as warm, comfortable and full of joy.
We thank God for the fact that we live in a post-resurrection period rather than the era characterized by the Mosaic law and the interpretations it spawned. But grace-living is as difficult as law-living.
While law-living had hundreds of specific requirements, at least each person knew exactly what was expected. His religious duties were outlined in detail. Everyone was expected to meet the same requirements. By contrast, grace-living requires each of us to constantly seek and find, within the framework of scripture, God’s will. Grace-living for me may not be exactly the same as grace-living for you. And we celebrate this flexibility.
The Mosaic law was first given to a group of people who had no training or experience in developing their own society and culture. They had been slaves for many generations. The law-living required of them had societal and sanitation aspects, as well as spiritual considerations. The commands of the Torah were only the ABCs of Gods revelation of himself. Jehovah 101 if you will.
By the time Jesus was born, God expected the Hebrew people to be ready for a more personal, detailed expression of His character and nature. Jesus was the advanced course given by a Father that longed to be known and understood by those He loved. This explains Jesus’ statement in John 14:9 “…he that hath seen me hath seen the Father.”
Jesus did not cancel the ABCs of earlier times. He expanded them and built on them. He expects us to follow the “Thou shalt love” commands of Matthew 22:37-40 just as rigorously as the rabbis of his day followed the Mosaic law.