Courage to pray

When we look at the infinite distance we know exists between Creator and His creation, especially in light of a holy God and sinful people, we could imagine that it would be vanity and impious that any request of ours could be heard or that He could be induced to notice it with a reply. However, God has asked us to talk to Him and tell Him of our needs and He has assured us of an answer to our prayer.

So when we see David pray, he shares with us his prayer request but he also tells us in quite a bit of detail the words God uses to respond to Him and the promise that He has given him.  Because of the promise given by God, David being encouraged, found in his heart this prayer – something to great to beg for, but not too great for God to give. Many of us come in prayer to seek, but it must not only be in our mouths, but also in our hearts and that heart needs to be poured out before God.  Our faith and hope are built on the honour of God keeping His promise.

Prayer, minus the elegant tongue or even scripture memorization, demands a sincere heart – one that utters His name in child-like trust desiring no one but Him. God wants to respond immediately to a heart like this – be our security, hope, strength, joy, and supply.  

Such a prayer means that the heart has been renewed for such prayer could never come from a dead, corrupt or stony heart.  If you can pray from your heart, never doubt your relationship with God – you are both in love with each other.  If you are only able to whisper His name, share your heart in weak, feeble and fragmentary words, and you are apprehensive that maybe such a poor, broken prayer cannot be accepted, know that it is not your words, but the desire of your soul that has come before God.  Hope as long as you can, pray, for none who pray believing in the name of Jesus, will be rejected.

For you, O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to your servant, saying, “I will build you a house’; therefore your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to you. – 2 Samuel 7:27

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The hope of all the ends of the earth

We are encouraged to hope in the Lord and put our confidence in Him knowing that with Him there is forgiving mercy and redemption.  The Father has appointed Christ to be His salvation to the ends of the earth, sent His Gospel into the world and encourages the world to look to Jesus for salvation.  Place your hope in Him.

Who are the ends of the earth? Whether you live in the frozen regions or beneath the burning sun, whether it is the greatest physical distance or those who are far off from God, His Church, from the Gospel, from hope or from anything that is good these are those who are the ends of the earth. Include in these the people least known, especially the ones that surround us, and those least thought of, those most tried, and those hardest to reach.

When obedience fails, the only hope is the mercy of God!

The awesome deeds that deliver us come from God’s power in answer to prayer.   David, in Psalm 65,  is telling us to look at the earth to see what God can do and remember that this same power is working to answer us. It’s the same God who did all the miracles in the Old Testament and all the miracles in the New Testament and who raised Christ Jesus from the grave to give us hope in the first place.

“Remoteness from any supposed centre of the religious, or political world does not place a man beyond the pale of God’s providential care and blessing.” – Plumer

That God is never beyond our reach is a great reason to praise Him.  He is always at our side, always available to us through prayer.

By awesome deeds you answer us with deliverance, O God of our salvation; you are the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas. – Psalm 65:5

“Carrier” from JARED ANDERSON

 

 

Helps and upholds

We can hope because God helps us in extraordinary manners and His helps is as sure and as certain as our prayer.  He upholds our lives through His encouragement of our faith and our hope not only exists but is sustained.

So when David prayed such prayers we not they were not random but offered in the exercise of faith. He knew God was at his side to defend him and with that faith he knew he could handle the obstacles as they came, even the moments of despair when they appeared. What gives us hope is that we know David’s life. He was all over the place but could still speak of God being near him and could recognize the gracious presence of God. Where did David get his hope from? God was glorified in every act of every man who was with David and even though they were few in number, possessed little power, had more fears than David had – David knew and believed that under the guidance and protection of God that would be superior and God’s help would more than abundantly compensate for all.

The Lord then becomes the champion of all champions, friend and confidant.  He upholds us using the efforts of friends who support us.

 Oh Righteous God,
Bring relief from the pain and suffering of my life.
Help us to look to you to show us good in the midst of bad.

Let your face shine on us. Bring hope and joy to my heart once again.
Allow my sleep to one again be peaceful.
Let me dwell with you in safety. Amen.

The 1719 hymn O God, Our Help in Ages Past by Isaac Watts and William Croft, reminds us that God has been our help in the past and will continue to be our hope in the years to come:

O God, our help in ages past, Our hope for years to come; Be Thou our guide while life shall last, And our eternal home.

But surely, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life. – Psalm 54:4

Westminster Abbey – Oh God Our Help in Ages Past

Downcast no longer

DESPERATE CIRCUMSTANCES
• Hannah was a married woman who had no children and was unable to have children.
• She was married to a man by the name of Elkanah and she was one of two wives.
• The other wife seemed to be very fruitful and had several children.
• Hannah had none.
• In that time a large family was seen as a sign of a blessing and the lack thereof was seen as a curse.
• Hannah had to endure ongoing humiliation and shame.
• To make matters worse, the other wife constantly harassed and taunted her.
• She had desperate circumstances and there appeared to be no hope and no end in sight.
• She really had a raw deal.
• Her name, Hannah, meant ‘woman of grace’ or ‘gracious woman’.
• But it must have been very difficult to be what her name meant when she was surrounded by such desperate, on-going circumstances and issues.
• We know that she often cried and wept and that she would not eat because of all that was going on.

The story of Hannah receiving a kind word of blessing from Eli the priest as a prophecy was a like a gift of faith to fulfill her incredibly earnest desire for a child, dispel her sadness and fill her with a confident hope.

What hope can we receive from the trials we go through and how does our own understanding of who God is give us hope in times of great hopelessness?

  “When we make self the end of
prayer, it is not worship but self-seeking.”
—Thomas Manton

As followers of Christ, we need to choose prayer, not hopelessness.

“It is narratively significant that neither Peninnah or Elkanah will
suffice for hope any longer. But in a moment of decisive action
she turns from both her sociological hope the hope of Peninnah
and her psychological hope her hope with Elkanah to identify
with God alone. – Robert Alter

  Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”  She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast. – 1 Samuel 1:17-18

Marty Nystrom – Why So Downcast (Live)

 

Prayer

But joyful are those who have the God of Israel[a] as their helper,
    whose hope is in the Lord their God. – Psalm 146:5

Since we have hope regarding the future – Christ’s return – we want to be found doing the work He has called us to do.  Since He has called us, we need to choose prayer and faithful proclamation of the gospel as our focus.

Not the prayer that includes gossip,whining or complaining or introduces negativity or criticism but one filled hope, supporting each other.

The Book of Acts starts with such a support.  Through chapter four there are repeated times where the author describes how much Christians shared together – one body, one Spirit, one hope and one profession of faith.

What would God have us do? Offer bold prayers that reflect a strong faith and secure hope. Let’s not just talk about prayer, and have seminars on prayer, and read books about prayer, and listening to sermons on prayer. Let us pray. The souls of men and women hang in the balance.

Our hope is that the message is heard and lives are changed.

After they were released, they went to their friends and reported what the chief priests and the elders had said to them.  When they heard it, they raised their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth, the sea, and everything in them,  it is you who said by the Holy Spirit through our ancestor David, your servant: “Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things?  The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers have gathered together against the Lord and against his Messiah.’  For in this city, in fact, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed,  to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.  And now, Lord, look at their threats, and grant to your servants to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.”  When they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness. – Acts 4:23-31

I give you what I have

The encounter of Peter and John with the lame man at the gate of the temple was a testimony to the confidence, courage and conviction that had filled them both.  They knew it was their turn to start giving and with words that extended to the lame man hope, faith and confidence, they gave willingly and without hesitation.

People can be more open to a message of hope when their lives are shaken.  We need to be sensitive and recognize that we are in front of them because God wants them to hear the gospel and wants the Holy Spirit to do a work in that person’s life.

So it was with this lame man – a presentation of salvation – a broken state where God’s grace desires to touch and heal.  Our sins block us from God, but just as Peter reached out to the lame man, giving him more than he hoped or asked for, so Jesus has taken the initiative to come to each of us. God seeks us out.

It was many years ago in St. Louis, that a lawyer visited a Christian to transact some business. Just before the two parted, his client said to him, “I’ve often wanted to ask you a question, but I’ve been afraid to do so.” “What do you want to know?” asked the lawyer. The man replied, “I’ve wondered why you’re not a believer.” The man hung his head. “I know enough about the Bible to realize that it says no drunkard can enter the kingdom of God; and you know my weakness!” “You’re avoiding my question,” continued his friend the believer. “Well, truthfully, I can’t recall anyone every explaining how to become a Christian.” Picking up a bible, the client read some passages describing everyone’s guilt, but that Christ came to save the lost by dying on the cross for their sins. “By receiving Him as your substitute and redeemer,” he said, “you can be forgiven. If you are willing to repent and receive Jesus we should pray together now.” The lawyer agreed, and where it was his turn he exclaimed, “Jesus, I am a slave to drink. One of your servants has shown me how to be saved. O God, forgive my sins and help me overcome the power of this terrible habit in my life.” Right there he was converted. That lawyer was C.I. Scofield, who later edited the reference bible that still bears his name.

Now Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour. And a man lame from birth was being carried, whom they laid daily at that gate of the temple which is called Beautiful to ask alms of those who entered the temple.  Seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms.  And Peter directed his gaze at him, with John, and said, “Look at us.”  And he fixed his attention upon them, expecting to receive something from them.  But Peter said, “I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.”  And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong.  And leaping up he stood and walked and entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God.  And all the people saw him walking and praising God, and recognized him as the one who sat for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him. – Acts 3:1-10

Wisdom is the security of hope

The most interesting point of reference to hope I found in Proverbs today.  Wisdom is what will keep our hope on what has been promised to us.

I think there might be many different kinds of jewels of wisdom that God provides us with, but this one is special. Without the security of our hope, what does our future look like?

What if we can’t find that wisdom?  Is it possible that there are those of us who will never find it?  I mean wisdom like this is like eating honey that drips straight from a honeycomb – who would not ask, seek, knock just to have something like this for our soul?

Wisdom is that assurance that placing our confidence in the promises of God is the basis for hope.

 C. S. Lewis wrote a whole chapter on hope in his book, Mere Christianity, this is his opening paragraph —

Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next. The Apostles themselves, who set on foot the conversion of the Roman Empire, the great men who built up the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave Trade, all left their mark on Earth, precisely because their minds were occupied with Heaven. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither. It seems a strange rule, but something like it can be seen at work in other matters. Health is a great blessing, but the moment you make health one of your main, direct objects you start becoming a crank and imagining there is something wrong with you. You are only likely to get health provided you want other things more – food, games, work, fun, open air. In the same way, we shall never save civilisation as long as civilisation is our main object. We must learn to want something else even more.

 So when we look at prayer, we change the way we pray for others.  We no longer pray for what they are experiencing here on earth, we begin to pray for them in light of eternity and so our prayer is that they will find Jesus.  That He will be with them – and through Him they will experience the comfort, peace, healing and hope that only He can give.

My child, eat honey, for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, you will find a future, and your hope will not be cut off.– Proverbs 24:13-14

With Hope by Steven Curtis Chapman

Ask, seek, knock

Thinking about Jesus encouraging us to ask, seek and knock towards the end of His Sermon on the Mount – what a great way to end a very strong call defining what it means to follow Him.  In fact when I look how weak I actually am, and so selfish – how could I love like Him?  I am required to be humble, truthful, compassionate, forgiving and living a life of integrity – I lack them all. Unless I have His strength I cannot live this life I am called to.  It is here that Jesus’ encouragement gives me hope and the recommendation of how to get the help I need.

When someone is asked for something, the response depends on the person and their persistence in asking.  Seeking is structure based on criteria – the better understanding of what I am looking for, the more certain I am of finding it.  It’s the knocking that is done in hope – hoping that I find someone on the other side.  When we ask God, He listens.  When we seek God, He allows Himself to be found.  When we knock, He is always home and opens the door for us.

I have established that hope comes in the form of knocking.  It is the one action that entirely depends on God and it is definitive – either the door opens or it does not.  He is either home or is not. Spurgeon, and who am I to dispute him, thought that hoping came in the seeking part.  That hope was the engine that enabled one to keep seeking. I suppose we could find someone who thought that asking might be the ultimate expression of hope.  So let’s agree that the asking, seeking and knocking have elements that without hope as our motivation would not be part of our success in building our relationship with God.

“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.  For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.  Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone?  Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! – Matthew 7:7-11

Ask, Seek, Knock

Sermon: The 3 kinds of prayer: Ask-Seek-Knock

Ask, Seek, Knock: Persistence In Prayer

 

Prayer prompts us to continue

He who rescued us from so deadly a peril will continue to rescue us; on him we have set our hope that he will rescue us again – 2 Corinthians 1:10

Prayer prompts us to continue in hope —

I praise You God, my deliverer.

You have unlimited power over the enemy and the trouble I face. I invite You into this situation. Deliver me from evil.

Let Your love and truth be revealed. In Your great power, conquer all that is meant to harm me.

I believe You can do more than I can ask or imagine in love and in obscurity. You delivered people from lions and fire. You can certainly deliver me.

I believe You are already acting on my behalf to deliver me. You are where my help comes from.

In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen

Prayer gives us hope today, and peace, and even joy and gratitude. Indeed, “taste and see that the Lord is good” can be our testimony today.

I sought the Lord, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears – Psalm 34:4

Prayer for Hope and Strength

The Power of Praying God’s Words

 

Prayer

We have made prayer the theme for Partners International this year.  We also happen to love the word hope and it appears in most of the action items that we engage in – such as the Hope in Action tour and the Hope in Action catalogue.

As I begin to look at hope this year, I am recognizing that the two actually go hand in hand – that is, prayer and hope.

When I hope, I pray – when I am praying, I am hoping.

In our introduction to Jesus, we see the temple and the importance of those serving God there, interacting with the Gospel story.  Starting with Zacharias serving at the altar of incense, a duty that he will only perform once in his lifetime.  Then we see the praying and hoping covenant believers in Simeon and Anna.  Simeon himself was brought by the Spirit to the temple that day just so he could see Jesus as He was brought there for circumcision.  The last time we see Jesus in the temple before He engages in ministry, he was twelve years old, sitting in the temple, discussing the things of God.

No wonder as He was nearing His time on earth that He became so aggressive at the money changers in the temple.  They were not just money changers, they looked forward to making a deal using the passion and hopes of those who came to seek God.  They did not come to serve and be part of the worship, they were there only for the money

Then he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there; and he said, “It is written, “My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of robbers.” – Luke 19:45-46

Sometimes A Prayer Will Do

There is Hope Through Prayer