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The Word For Today

Different ways to pray 3

'I lay prostrate before the Lord.' Deuteronomy 9:25 NIV

Find a prayer style that works for you. In Scripture people pray as they stand, kneel, lie on the ground, sit, stretch out their hands, lift their faces toward the sky or bow them toward the earth. Just find the method that works best for you, and use it.

Some people pray better when they are moving. If you're one of them, take a walk, go for a drive, or run. You are free to use your body and posture to help you turn your mind and heart towards God. When you're acknowledging your sins, you may find it helpful to have your head bowed and to kneel; it'll help you to remember and experience the humility of the moment. In worship, you may want to turn your face towards the sky. In asking for guidance, you may find it helpful to turn your palms upwards as a way of expressing with your body: 'Lord, whatever you want.' When praying for someone, say at a restaurant, you may want to look that person right in the eye while talking to God and say, 'Father, I'm so grateful for this person. You know what they need. Give them what is required by their heart.' When you're praising God, put on a worship CD and sing along.

The point is you should approach God with the joy, excitement and simplicity with which a child runs into the arms of a loving parent. Just as you don't have anyone else's fingerprints, you don't have anyone else's temperament. So just approach God in a way that's natural, spontaneous and comfortable for you.

Soulfood: 2 Ki 1:1-18 2 Ki 2 2 Ki 3 2Ki 4:1-17 Mark 11:27-33 Ps 1 Pro 13:1,


Different ways to pray 2

'Hezekiah received the letter...and spread it out before the Lord.' Isaiah 37:14 NIV

Hezekiah, King of Israel, received a threatening letter from a much more powerful king - the King of Assyria. The Assyrian potentate demanded unconditional surrender, and told Hezekiah not to trust in God. The letter was graphic, warning that resistance meant the Israelites would have to 'eat their own excrement and drink their own urine' before they died (2 Kings 18:27 NIV).

So Hezekiah went to the temple 'and spread it out before the Lord'. Then he prayed: 'God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made Heaven and earth. Give ear, O Lord, and hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see' (Isaiah 37:16-17 NIV). Hezekiah literally said, 'Lord, would you read this, then do something about it!' And God did. Indeed, what he did was spectacular. 'Then the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning - there were all the dead bodies' (Isaiah 37:36 NIV)!

So, what piece of paper would you like to spread out before the Lord? A financial statement that's overwhelming? A divorce decree? A medical diagnosis? An angry email? Any piece of paper that causes you stress can be an invitation to prayer, and a candidate to be spread out before the Lord. If it's important to you, it's important to him. You say, 'I've never done anything like that before.' Try it. Give it to God, trust him, and watch how he works things out for you.

Soulfood: Rev 19-22 Mark 11:12-26 Ps 129 Pro 12:27-28,


Different ways to pray 1

'The Spirit prays for God's people.' Romans 8:27 CEV

Someone who's better at prayer than you are is already at work on your behalf. 'In certain ways we are weak, but the Spirit is here to help us. For example, when we don't know what to pray for, the Spirit prays for us in ways that cannot be put into words. All of our thoughts are known to God. He can understand what is in the mind of the Spirit, as the Spirit prays for God's people' (Romans 8:26-27 CEV). Notice, the Holy Spirit 'prays for God's people'.

Sometimes we've a hard time with being 'fully present' in prayer. We all know what it's like to be with another person when their mind is a million miles away. What's the answer? Try jotting down what goes on while you're praying. The two most common hindrances to praying successfully are: (a) your mind gets easily distracted by other thoughts; (b) you get tired. When author John Ortberg shared these two frustrations with a friend, he suggested that John go outside alone and simply invite Jesus to come along with him. Ortberg writes: 'The next day I went to the ocean, took off my shoes, started to run and invited Jesus to come along. I found the strangest thing. When I thought I was supposed to be talking to him, I found it effortful and difficult. Now that all I had to do was invite him, I couldn't stop thinking about him. My mind kept reflecting on his being with me. I found myself wanting to point out the pelicans and the waves to him. People and concerns would pop into my mind, and I would find myself telling Jesus about them. Everything changed.'

So, invite Jesus to come along with you today and share each thing with him.

Soulfood: Exo 20:16 Deut 19:15-20 Rev 21:8,


Pray from your heart

'When you pray, don't be like those show-offs.' Matthew 6:5 CEV

Jesus said the Pharisees turned prayer into a public performance, and that God wasn't moved by it. Author John Ortberg points out five things about the Pharisees: '(1) Their prayers had become a shallow exercise rather than a deep relationship-building one. (2) They were rituals, rather than authentic expressions of a loving heart. (3) They were long and wordy, designed to impress others. (4) They were filled with meaningless clich?s. (5) They became a cause for pride rather than an opportunity to express humble reliance on God.'

Can you imagine your child approaching you with a whole bunch of religious 'thee's' and 'thou's'? How would it make you feel? When it comes to prayer, Jesus said: 'When you pray, you should go into your room and close the door and pray to your Father who cannot be seen. Your Father can see what is done in secret, and he will reward you. And when you pray, don't be like those people who don't know God. They continue saying things that mean nothing, thinking that God will hear them because of their many words. Don't be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask him' (Matthew 6:6-8 NCV).

You can pray anywhere, at any time: in your car, in the bathroom, lying in bed, while you're exercising or at work. All God asks is that you be spontaneous, personal and honest. In other words, pray from your heart.

Soulfood: Rev 15-18 Mark 11:1-11 Ps 124 Pro 12:26,


Share it with them

'Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give...will never thirst.' John 4:14 NKJV

One day the Pharisees asked Jesus, 'Why do you eat and drink with such scum' (Luke 5:30 NLT)? Such contempt - and from those who should have been the first to show love and compassion! Jesus loved people; look how he dealt with the woman at the well. First, he broke the rules. Jews didn't mix with Gentiles, and they certainly didn't associate with her kind. (She'd been divorced five times.) Jesus walked for miles to meet this woman. He went into her world to bring her into his. He mixed with her not to take advantage of her or become like her, but to reach, redeem and restore her. That's why he's called 'a friend of...sinners' (Matthew 11:19 NKJV). Could people say that about you?

Second, he broke the ice. Jesus talked about what she was interested in - water. You must start where people are, not where you think they should be. You must use words they understand. And get over your fear of rejection. You may lose face if they say no, but think what they'll lose if they never have a chance to say yes to the Gospel.

Third, he broke the news. He offered her living water instead of dead religion. How can you say you love someone and not share the greatest thing you ever found - salvation? Everybody you meet is hung up on the past, anxious about the future, or in need of a real friend. Once you find which door they're behind, walk through it with love and sensitivity. They're thirsty for 'the living water'. Share it with them.

Soulfood: Rev 10-14 Mark 10:35-52 Ps 4 Pro 12:25,


Spend more time in prayer

'Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.' 1 Chronicles 16:11 NIV

In Catherine Marshall's book, A Closer Walk, her husband Leonard LeSourd writes about the beginning of their marriage. 'Catherine had huge adjustments to make. She sold her Washington dream house to move to Chappaqua, so I could continue to commute to my job at Guideposts in New York City. My children - Linda, ten; Chester, six; Jeffrey, three - had been through a deeply unsettling two years, adjusting to a variety of housekeepers. They had mixed feelings towards moving into a new house, and especially towards "the new mommy that Daddy's bringing home". Catherine's son Peter, who was nineteen, was going through a period of rebellion at Yale...Catherine and I had so many things to pray about that we began to rise an hour early each morning to read the Bible and seek answers together. Her current journal lay open beside us in these predawn prayer times, recording our changing needs, and his unchanging faithfulness.'

As the pressures of life mount, you need to pray more, not less. Jesus rose before dawn to pray. Sometimes he prayed all night. Other times he left the demands of the crowd to pray. Why? Because your power, peace, joy and effectiveness are directly related to the time you spend in prayer.

Then why don't we pray daily? For the same reason people join a gym in January and quit by February. Prayer requires discipline that only you can put in place. But it brings great rewards. Hymnist Fanny Crosby wrote: 'Oh, the pure delight of a single hour, that before thy throne I spend. When I kneel in prayer, and with thee my God, I commune as friend with friend.'

Soulfood: Luke 24:50-53 Acts 1:1-11 Eph 4:7-10,


'Keep calm and carry on'

'Continue in the grace of God.' Acts 13:43 NKJV

In the days leading up to World War II, the British government commissioned a series of posters. The idea was to capture encouraging slogans and distribute them throughout the country. Capital letters in a distinct typeface were used, and a simple two-colour format selected. The only graphic was the crown of King George VI.

The first poster was distributed in September of 1939: YOUR COURAGE. YOUR CHEERFULNESS. YOUR RESOLUTION WILL BRING US VICTORY. Soon thereafter a second poster was produced: FREEDOM IS IN PERIL. DEFEND IT WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT. These two posters appeared on railway platforms and in pubs, shops and restaurants. A third poster was created but it was never distributed. More than 2.5 million copies were printed yet never seen until nearly sixty years later, when a bookshop owner in north-east England discovered one in a box of old books he had purchased at an auction. It read: KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON. It bore the same crown and style of the first two posters. It was never released to the public, however, but held in reserve for an extreme crisis, such as invasion by Germany. The bookshop owner framed it and hung it on the wall. It became so popular that the bookshop began producing identical images of the original design on coffee mugs, postcards and posters.

It's the same message Paul and Barnabas brought to the first Christians in Antioch: 'Continue in the grace of God' (Acts 13:43 NKJV). Or in other words, 'Keep calm and carry on!'

Soulfood: Rev 5-9 Mark 10:23-34 Ps 121 Pro 12:23-24,


Learn to be content

'I have learned how to be content.' Philippians 4:11 NLT

When you aim to grow and achieve things in life, these are commendable goals. But when you covet what someone else has or want to be just like them, you're entering into territory that's forbidden by Scripture. Contentment does not mean you should become complacent or settle for mediocrity and fail to achieve your God-given potential in life. Not at all! You're supposed to work to improve yourself, while at the same time remaining totally dependent on God (see 2 Corinthians 3:5).

Self-sufficiency means to be 'sufficient in one's self' instead of putting your faith in God's assistance. Contentment, on the other hand, is to know with certainty and firm conviction that God is able to meet your every need (see Philippians 4:19). When you understand that truth, you don't have to covet anyone else's position, property, possessions or personality. Why? Because you're assured that all you presently have, and all you are today, is more than enough in the hands of God. Whatever you need to do to fulfil his will you can do, not in your own strength but in the strength and power of Christ who dwells within your innermost being.

Covetousness comes to us all naturally, but contentment must be learned. Paul writes: 'I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength' (Philippians 4:11-13 NLT).

Soulfood: Rev 1-4 Mark 10:13-22 Ps 117 Pro 12:20-22,


Work for unity

'Accept other believers who are weak in faith.' Romans 14:1 NLT

During the first century cities like Rome attracted people of many cultures, languages, religions and customs. Consequently, the early church's mission to 'make disciples of all the nations' sometimes led to conflict and confusion. For example, some believers continued to observe a seventh-day Sabbath, while others who didn't eat meat wanted to remain vegetarians. It's why Paul wrote, 'Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don't argue...about what they think is right or wrong' (Romans 14:1 NLT). Note, he didn't tell us to just put up with them, but to 'accept', welcome, receive, acknowledge, and make allowance for those who aren't carbon copies of us.

Even though the issues we deal with nowadays are different from those of the early church, it's easy to become divisive and judgmental. But remember, 'Each of us will give a personal account to God. So let's stop condemning each other...instead...live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble' (Romans 14:12-13 NLT). When legitimate differences arise on fundamental issues and there's no wiggle room for negotiation, behave in a Christlike way without picking fights, criticising and looking down on people. Satan's goal is to sidetrack us into splitting hairs while God's Kingdom suffers. Instead, 'Be devoted to one another in...love. Honour one another above yourselves' (Romans 12:10 NIV).

Learn to respect your fellow believers not because of who they are, but whose they are! Paul writes, 'May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other... Then all of you can join together with one voice' (Romans 15:5-6 NLT).

Soulfood: 1 Ki 21-22 Mark 10:1-12 Ps 82 Pro 12:18-19,


Everything you need is in God's Word

'If the Son sets you free, you are truly free.' John 8:36 NLT

Sometimes we tell new believers to clean up their act, without telling them how! Jesus said, 'If the Son sets you free, you are truly free' (John 8:36 NLT). The Amplified Bible puts it like this: 'Then you are really and unquestionably free.' The key to victory in life doesn't lie in exercising more willpower, but in drawing on God's power moment by moment. Paul writes, 'Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh' (Galatians 5:16 NKJV).

Lasting change comes from the inside out. Your biggest battle will always be in the area of your thoughts and impulses. If Satan can get your mind off God's Word and into the carnal realm, he can swing you towards sin and defeat every time. Understand this: God's Word is the language of God's Spirit. That means when you read it and meditate on its principles, you are allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to you, and as a result you can keep your flesh under control. But when you dwell on sinful thoughts, you're operating in the enemy's language and letting him dictate to you.

So get back into God's Word today. It's 'the sword of the Spirit' and the only weapon sharp enough to cut you loose from sin. Peter says, 'By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life...he has given us great and precious promises...[so we can] share his divine nature and escape the world's corruption' (2 Peter 1:3-4 NLT). Everything you need is in God's Word.

Soulfood: Exo 20:15 Exo 22:1-4 Pro 6:30-31 Luke 19:1-10,

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