Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. (Jeremiah 29:12)
Isn’t it interesting to read in The Bible, the prayers of some well known characters? Here are just a few examples:
I suspect that some of you wish that you could pray like these people! Others of you may feel your prayers are weak and powerless in comparison to these. Well, it’s interesting to note that these people all have a number of things in common. Ruth Bell Graham in her book ‘Ask in Prayer’ reminds us that they ‘never read a book on prayer, never attended a seminar on prayer, and never heard a sermon on prayer. They just prayed'. Yes, that’s right, ‘They just prayed’.
It’s possible that the devil has tried to prevent you from praying by telling you that you don’t know how to pray, or that God will never listen to your prayers. Or maybe you pray for a few days and get discouraged because you think you’re prayers are no good and you’re not getting answers.
In his commentary in The Bible in a Year, Nicky Gumble gives us a this advice ‘Start praying where you are, as you are, about whatever concerns you, about what is lying most heavily on your heart, about whatever is irritating or frustrating you at present.’
Do that every day. Do it when you feel like it. Do it when you don’t feel like it. Just do it!
Watchman Nee wrote,
Our prayers lay the track down which God’s power can come. Like a mighty locomotive, his power is irresistible, but it cannot reach us without rails.
One last thing, keep a pen and paper beside you and write down what you have prayed about. You’ll be amazed at how, like Abraham, Moses, David and Hannah, God marvellously, and in encouraging ways, answers your prayers also.
“Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.” (John 12:27)
Philippe Petit is a French tight-rope artist who gained notoriety for his illegal tight-rope walks between the towers of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in 1971 and also on Sydney Harbour Bridge. His most famous feat though took place in New Your City in 1974.
In 1968, he saw an artists’ drawing in a magazine of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre. Immediately, his dream to one day cross from one tower to the other on the tight rope was born. Years of careful planning ensued. It was executed like a military operation.
In the early morning of 7th August 1974, after having smuggled himself, a companion and his equipment into one of the towers, he rigged up his wire. Shortly after dawn, he began his daring feat 1,312 feet above the ground, without the security of a safety harness!
As he crossed between the Twin Towers eight times over a 45 minute period, he danced, knelt and even lay down on the wire as onlookers below craned their necks to see the marvel unfolding above them. When he finally decided to end his show, he was promptly arrested by the New York Police Department, having broken dozens of laws.
He had risked his life one week before his 25th birthday.
Many people think that feats like this require passion, courage, dedication and determination. That may be so, but it’s only as we lift our eyes to another height that we see a greater passion and a greater courage. At Calvary, we see that Christ was not only willing to risk His life to save mankind, He actually gave His life. By willingly stepping out into the abyss of sin for mankind was he able to bring “many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10)
As Spurgeon wrote:
You never hear Jesus say in Pilate's judgement hall one word that would let you imagine that He was sorry that He had undertaken so costly a sacrifice for us. When His hands are pierced, when He is parched with fever, His tongue dried up like a shard of pottery, when His whole body is dissolved into the dust of death, you never hear a groan or a shriek that looks like Jesus is going back on His commitment.
That is true courage.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)
One of the principles for growth in the Christian life is to trust God......in all circumstances!
In theory it seems straightforward, but in reality, many struggle to put it into practice. It’s a lot easier to think it rather than to live it.
Scripture is replete with examples of those who, like Abraham, learned to trust God and reaped the blessing which followed. However, we also read of those, like Lot, who chose not to follow the royal road of trust. As a result, he never entered through the door to deep fellowship with God that only trust can open.
A friend recently send me a copy of the following prayer an older farmer prayed in a rural farming community when he was asked to say grace. This is what followed: “God, I hate buttermilk and lard, and God, you know I don’t much care for raw, white flour. But God, when you mix them all together and bake them, I do love warm fresh biscuits. So God, when things come up that we don’t like, when life gets hard, when we don’t understand what you’re saying to us, help us to just relax and wait until you are done mixing. It will probably be even better than biscuits. Amen.”
Many of the situations that God asks us to trust Him in are not palatable. Like the old farmer, we may even ‘hate’ them. But, while God is still ‘mixing’, we need to still trust Him. As Charles Spurgeon wrote;
God is too good to be unkind
He is too wise to be mistaken.
And when we cannot trace His hand,
We must trust His heart.
Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. Soldiers don’t get tied up in the affairs of civilian life, for then they cannot please the officer who enlisted them. And athletes cannot win the prize unless they follow the rules. And hardworking farmers should be the first to enjoy the fruit of their labor. (2 Timothy 2:3-7)
Recently I was reading a short biography of the Scottish missionary John Gibson Paton who, along with his wife, felt called by God to go to the New Hebrides (now Vanuatu) in the South Pacific in 1858. Before leaving Scotland, his friends begged him not go to such a dangerous mission field where other missionaries had lost their lives at the hands of the locals who were cannibals, who even strangled the widows of their own warrior and who mistreated their women. Three months after arriving at his destination, his wife died of tropical fever shortly after giving birth to a baby boy. At 36 days old, the baby also died. Many attempts were made on his life and during one attack, a ship arrived just in time to rescue him and take him to safety.
After remarrying, he was posted to a different island where he and his wife endured many years of deprivation and danger from natives and disease. They had three children, one a girl who sadly died. They continued with their work and, after many years of patient ministry, the entire island of Aniwa professed Christianity. In 1899 he saw his Aniwa New Testament printed and the establishment of missionaries on twenty five of the thirty islands of the New Hebrides.
But how did John Paton manage to endure such unimaginable hardships? How did he continue to work in the face of death, danger and disease? Well, I think at least part of the answer lies for us, in instructions that the apostle Paul writes to his spiritual son, Timothy. He says ‘Endure suffering along with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus’ (2 Tim 2:3). He then proceeds to give examples of single minded devotion to a cause.
In Colossians 3:23-24 we read,
Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.’
Today, shall we let the life of John Paton, who lived as a good soldier, who was single minded and worked for the Lord with all his heart, stir us up to a life of deeper devotion and greater service for Jesus Christ?
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