Who Am I Praying For, Myself or Others?

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1 John 5:14-15 (KJV)

14 And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us:
15 And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.

Since praying is such a common practice for believers, over time it’s easy to fall into habits that result in a lifeless and empty prayer life.

Instead of a dynamic conversation with thoughtful requests and active listening for God’s response, our prayers can seem more like grocery lists.

Because communication with the Lord is such a vital part of the Christian life, we occasionally need to step back and examine how we’re doing.

Begin by asking yourself these questions:

How effective are my prayers?

Is God answering my petitions, or does it seem as if they never go past the ceiling?

Who am I praying for? Are most of my requests for myself or others?

What am I asking the Lord to do?

Have I looked in the Word to see what He wants, or am I trying to get Him to intervene according to my plans and desires?

When do I pray?

Is it only during emergencies or when I need something?

If you discovered any selfishness in your answers, you’re not alone.

Most of us struggle to enter God’s presence with our eyes focused on Him instead of our needs.

But the only way we’ll be able to pray with impact is to fill our minds with Scripture so we can find out what the Lord wants to do.

Your prayer life can become effective and dynamic if you’ll approach the Lord with a clean heart (Psalms 66:18), align your requests with His will, and believe He will do what He says (Mark 11:24).

Then you’ll be able to pray with absolute confidence knowing that He will hear and answer your petitions.

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Our Selfish Strongholds…

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2 Corinthians 4:7-18 (KJV)

7  But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
8  We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;
9  Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed;
10 Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.
11 For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus’ sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.
12 So then death worketh in us, but life in you.
13 We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken; we also believe, and therefore speak;
14 Knowing that he which raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise up us also by Jesus, and shall present us with you.
15 For all things are for your sakes, that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God.
16 For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day.
17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;
18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

Probably the greatest obstacle to understanding God’s purpose for brokenness is this:

Most believers think of Christianity as something we do. We pray. We read the Bible. We go to church. We sing hymns. We tithe.

We do and do—and assume that’s the Christian life. It’s not.

Authentic Christianity is about becoming rather than doing.

The life of faith that God designed involves receiving Jesus into our heart and allowing Him to change our habits, mindsets, beliefs, interests, and concerns so we become more and more like Him.

This realization will change our perspective on the heartache we must endure.

You see, when we recognize that the Christian life is about Jesus’ persistent work of “re-creation” in us, then the role of brokenness will make more sense.

It’s the process the Lord uses to strip us of things that have become—or may one day become—an obstacle to our spiritual growth. He also uses this tool to address issues we may have declared “off limits” to Him, such as unhealthy behaviors or relationships that we rationalize.

God doesn’t want to be Lord of most of your life; He wants to be Lord of all of your life!

So He zeroes in on areas of self-will and self-sufficiency to remove everything within us that relies on “self.”

He uses brokenness to remove those inclinations so that we can live moment by moment, day by day, in full dependence on Him.

Open your heart, and ask God to reveal any selfish strongholds.

Let Him break any unhealthy behavior patterns in your life. He will.

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Even More Than You Have Asked…

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Ephesians 3:20-21 (KJV)

20 Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,
21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.

Let these words slowly sink into your understanding: “able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think” (v. 20).

What an amazing description of God’s ability to work within us.

Yet so often our focus is mainly on what we want Him to do around us: If He would change this situation or fix that problem, then my life would be better.

But He invites us to think and ask bigger–He wants to change us!

The Holy Spirit has more than enough power to transform lives from the inside out, but working change within is usually a slow process. Spiritual fruit takes time to grow and mature.

That’s why we need patience and faith to believe He is working even when we don’t see the results right away.

God is never in a hurry and will never give up on us.

The Lord has a purpose for your life, and He is constantly working to achieve it.

Although He has an individualized plan for each one of His children, He also has an overarching goal–to conform every believer to the image of His Son Jesus Christ.

In order to accomplish this, He may have to bring us through some struggles and heartaches.

It might make no sense to us, but God knows exactly what He’s doing.

What would you like to see the Lord do within you?

As you read the Scriptures, look for qualities that God considers precious, and ask Him to work them out in your life.

Then rely on His wonderful promise to do even more than you have asked or imagined.

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Are You Too Busy for The Lord?

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Psalms 143:5-12 (KJV)

5 I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands.
6 I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Selah.
7 Hear me speedily, O Lord: my spirit faileth: hide not thy face from me, lest I be like unto them that go down into the pit.
8 Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.
9 Deliver me, O Lord, from mine enemies: I flee unto thee to hide me.
10 Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.
11 Quicken me, O Lord, for thy name’s sake: for thy righteousness’ sake bring my soul out of trouble.
12 And of thy mercy cut off mine enemies, and destroy all them that afflict my soul: for I am thy servant.

What do you think about when you wake up?

Are your thoughts instantly focused on the day ahead, or are they centered on the Lord?

Although most of us have busy lives that consume much of our time and attention, the most important and time-saving part of each day is that spent in quiet solitude with God.

Yet many believers feel so rushed that they don’t think there’s time for the Lord.

They immediately jump onto the treadmill of life and then wonder why they’re so frustrated, confused, and dissatisfied. Even if their desire is to follow God, they don’t know where He’s going since they haven’t stopped to get directions for the day.

There’s also a disconnect because they’ve ignored their relationship with Him.

No one can have intimacy with Christ without daily communication

Perhaps the problem is our own human logic.

We think spending time reading the Bible and praying each morning will result in having less time and lower productivity.

However, when we seek Christ’s direction and wisdom for the day and invite Him to control our lives, He’ll accomplish more through us than we can do by ourselves.

He’ll give us wisdom for good decisions, increase our strength and energy, and free us from time-wasting anxiety.

Are you too busy for the Lord?

If so, you’re denying yourself the blessing of an intimate relationship with Christ.

When you make time for Him, He’ll fill you with peace and joy, guide your decisions, grant you wisdom, empower you to obey, make you more productive, and comfort you with His love.

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Fruit That Remains In the Deepest, Darkest Storms…

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Galatians 5:16-26 (KJV)

16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
24 And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

As believers, we all want the fruit of the Spirit, but how can we know if we truly have it?

Even unbelievers display these qualities sometimes.

The nine-fold fruit of the Spirit is not what we do, but it’s who we are.

It is primarily on display in Christians when circumstances are unfavorable.

Two characteristics help us recognize these traits in our lives.

Fruitful believers are not controlled by their environment.

Everyone experiences trials and pain, but those who are filled with the Spirit do not lose His fruit because of their situation.

They keep their joy even when difficulties overwhelm. If someone speaks harshly, they respond with kindness. Because God the Holy Spirit is in control, He is free to produce His fruit no matter what the circumstances are.

Even though such believers may feel pain, anger, or a desire for revenge, they choose to trust the Lord to protect them and direct the outcome.

Fruitful Christians recover quickly after a fall.

These believers are not perfect, but they are sensitive to the Spirit’s conviction and are quick to return to the Lord in repentance. In fact, they are actually grateful for the correction and praise God, not only for revealing their weakness but also for drawing them back to obedience.

Believers can’t produce these qualities in themselves.

Trying harder to be godly will never work. Character transformation occurs when we submit to God, giving Him complete control of our lives.

Only then will the Spirit be free to produce fruit that remains even in the deepest, darkest storms.

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The Principle of the Broken Grain…

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John 12:24-25 (KJV)

24 Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.
25 He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

Brokenness hurts, and most of us would rather live without any seasons of pain.

Yet during such times, God often does His greatest work in our lives, reshaping and realigning us for His divine purposes.

Jesus beautifully explains the principle of brokenness in today’s passage, where He compares our life to a single grain of wheat.

If we hold a kernel in our hands, nothing will happen. If we carefully place it in a jar or on a shelf for safekeeping, it will just sit there indefinitely.

In its safety, the grain will essentially be useless.

However, if that kernel is placed in the soil where its protective layer is stripped away, something amazing happens.

Before long, a little sprout will emerge from the earth and start to grow into something different, useful, and beautiful. Moreover, that new stalk will produce more grains that can be planted, and the stalks they produce will do the same.

It’s an amazing cycle of life, wherein a single kernel can lead to countless stalks of wheat.

But it has to start with the brokenness of one grain.

Jesus did not just speak this example; He lived it.

By sacrificing Himself, He was broken and placed in the ground.

From that brokenness came new life for us all.

From that one “grain,” countless new believers, each with a new life, have sprung forth.

Are you feeling broken today?

If so, remember the principle of the broken grain.

God has certainly not abandoned you; instead, He may be leading you into a season of new growth.

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His Involvement in Both Big and Small Areas…

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Psalms 66

The Lord’s fingerprints can be detected all throughout history.

At times His work is dramatically obvious—like parting the Red Sea—but other times, it’s unnoticeable to our senses.

Our lack of perception, however, never impedes His activities.

He keeps working whether we’re aware of it or not, and blessings await those who develop the spiritual discernment to see what He is doing.

Preconceived ideas about how the Lord works can be a significant hindrance to perception.

When He answers our prayers, we rejoice and readily acknowledge His active intervention on our behalf. But what if He doesn’t give us what we request?

Too often we then conclude He’s not doing anything.

But in today’s passage, the psalmist recognizes that God works in a variety of ways—sometimes with a great deliverance (Ps. 66:5-6) and sometimes through painful situations (Ps. 66:10-12).

Another problem that can prevent us from seeing God’s hand in our life is inattention.

The demands of a busy lifestyle claim our time and concentration, leaving little room for quiet moments in His presence. Without periods of meditation and prayer, our spiritual senses become dull.

But those who read Scripture regularly will learn to recognize the Lord’s activity in their life, because He always acts in accordance with His Word.

Eyes focused on the Lord are open to a new perspective.

Your faith will grow as you begin to discern His activity in your life.

The joy and excitement of seeing His involvement in both big and small areas will motivate you to praise and thank Him, even in the hard times.

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Those Who Choose God Over Self…

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Ephesians 5:18-21 (KJV)

18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit;
19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;
20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
21 Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.

Although God wants every believer to be filled with the Spirit, many Christians are not sure what this means or what it looks like.

To help us understand that whatever fills us controls us, Paul cites drunkenness as a negative example of “filling” and tells us to avoid it. Every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but the extent of His rule is determined by the Christian’s freedom to comply.

Think of this as a voluntary choice to surrender your life to the Spirit’s control—in other words, to be sensitive to His leadership and guidance, obedient to His promptings, and dependent upon His strength.

The evidence of the Holy Spirit’s control is revealed in a person’s character.

Those who have yielded their lives to Christ’s leadership are continually being transformed into His likeness.

The degree of surrender determines the level of transformation.

Even though good works and faithful service are a result of being filled with the Holy Spirit, they are not necessarily signs of being yielded to Him.

Remember, we are talking primarily about character rather than actions. It’s easier to serve the Lord in some manner than to love the unlovable or be patient with difficult people. But when the Spirit oversees our lives, He does through us what we cannot do for ourselves.

All believers decide who rules their life, by either actively surrendering to Christ or deliberately going their own way.

Even those who try to avoid the issue by making no choice at all unknowingly opt for self-rule.

The fullness of the Spirit and godly character await those who choose God over self.

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