DON’T WASTE TIME IN HOSPITAL

Without doubt the most enjoyable part of praying is to commune with God and enjoy Him, and what encourages most to pray is seeing God answer our prayers.

Today has been so exciting that I could hardly wait to get home from hospital and put pen to paper. I took my wife for her hairdresser’s appointment – the full works, cutting and colour. Then I headed to the hospital for a blood test in preparation for an oncology appointment next week. I expected to wait at least an hour for the blood test but was through in five minutes! Now I had more than an hour to wait and so decided to sit in the hospital café with my newspaper, a super fiendish Sudoku and a latte. Within seconds of sitting down I had an urge to pray a simple prayer, “Lord, bring to me people that you want to minister to.”

No more than a minute later a Nigerian lady, heading for lunch, approached me. She thought she recognized me. We discovered that we were both Christians and chatted for a few minutes before she had to go. I asked her if I could prayer for her and she was happy for this. As I prayed I felt that the Holy Spirit gave me a prophetic word for her as an encouragement. She was so blessed and went on her way with great joy.

A short time later, an old man sitting at the same table as me, began to chat with me. After a while he asked if I would look after his things while he went to the shop to buy a top-up voucher for his phone. He came back empty-handed and complaining, “The shop assistant would be happy to sell me the voucher but is too busy to help me top up my phone,” I too have no idea how to top-up a mobile phone. As we continued chatting I caught sight of a young woman and her mother at a nearby table. Approaching the young woman, I asked if she knew how to top-up a mobile phone. “Of course I do,” she replied, and she was more than willing to help the old man. I went to buy the voucher for him and then the young woman topped-up his phone for him. The old man wanted to pay for the voucher but I told him it was a gift. He was so close to tears and said, “Now I can call my daughter and she will bring me home from the hospital.” I wondered how long he might have sat there waiting helplessly! I felt so strongly the presence of God in that hour in the hospital café.

Questions:

What lessons can be learned about prayer from this testimony?

When you are alone in a public place why not ask the Lord to bring people to you who He wants to touch and bless, and then quietly wait, and watch Him work?

What is the relationship between prayer and acts of kindness in evangelism?

TIME ALONE WITH GOD – PART 4

Bible Reading:  1 John 1:1-10

We have looked at some of the practical issues related to having a quiet time alone with God, and now we will consider planning the actual quiet time itself.

What I am going to suggest is not a blueprint that must be followed but rather guidelines to having a good quiet time.

Aim at a systematic plan but not allowing it to become mechanical. Take time to include the following components of the quiet time:

Opening prayer – adoration, confession and thanksgiving.

Read God’s Word and meditate upon it. As you read the Bible passage there are several questions that you might use that would help you to understand the passage. These include:

  • What new thing have I learned today?
  • Is there a command for me to obey?
  • Is there an example for me to follow?
  • Is there an error for me to avoid?
  • Is there a sin for me to forsake?
  • Is there a promise for me to claim?
  • Is there a new thought about God Himself?

It is helpful to write in your journal the things that God shows you.

Pray – including praying over the passage you read in the Bible. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you as you pray for your personal needs and for the needs of others. Use your list of people you are specifically praying for. Conclude by taking time to be quiet and allowing God to speak to you, and specifically to tell you anything that He particularly wants you to do.

I emphasize again that these are guidelines and not rules. Discipline is necessary, but try not to become mechanical or get into a rut. There are many other components that you could add to enrich this time – perhaps to listen to worship using a worship CD, or listen to messages by God inspired speakers. Be relaxed, be disciplined, be open to the Holy Spirit and enjoy yourself in God’s presence. Remember that we are called to enjoy Him, not endure Him.

Something to do:

Use the following questions as you read today’s passage from 1 John 1:1-10
  • What new thing have I learned today?
  • Is there a command for me to obey?
  • Is there an example for me to follow?
  • Is there an error for me to avoid?
  • Is there a sin for me to forsake?
  • Is there a promise for me to claim?
  • Is there a new thought about God Himself?
Now turn your answers to these questions into prayer and praise. God bless you.

TIME ALONE WITH GOD – PART 3

Bible Reading:  Psalm 119 verses 9-16, 33-40, 105-112

Today we are going to look at some of the materials that will be helpful to you in having a regular, daily time alone with God.

Firstly, you will need a Bible. I suggest a modern translation that you find is easy to read and understand. It may be best to use the translation that is used regularly in the church services that you attend. For years I have used the New King James Version [NKJV], but now also use the New International Version [NIV] and the New Living Translation [NLT]. Many people are now finding the comparatively new English Standard Version [ESV] very refreshing.

Secondly, it might be helpful the have a daily Bible Reading Plan. These will help you to read through the Bible consecutively. My wife uses a New Living Translation of the Bible entitled, “The One Year Bible.”

Thirdly, many people benefit from using daily Bible reading notes. Again, there are many of these available, but in the UK we particularly recommend “Word for Today,” published by United Christian Broadcasters. There are also many helpful daily devotional books available from well-known authors. These can be very helpful but be careful they do not replace reading the Bible itself.

Fourthly, it is good to have a notebook and pen, and to keep a journal of what you read, and of how God speaks to you both through His Word and in your spirit.

Fifthly, it is helpful to have a book in which you can keep prayer requests and also have a place to record the answers to prayer. Sometimes people ask you to pray, and we can trust the Holy Spirit to remind us of those requests, but it is certainly helpful to have them written down to aid the memory.

Over the past three days we have looked at the same practical issues of having a quiet time alone with God. We have looked the place to pray, posture in prayer, at what time to pray, and helpful materials for a quiet time.

Tomorrow we will look at how to plan your daily quiet time alone with God.

Questions: 

It is good to read the Bible every day in our quiet time with God. What important reasons can you find to read the Bible in today’s reading from Psalm 119?

In 2 Peter 3:17-18 we are told not to be led away with error but to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. How will having a daily quiet time with God help you in this?

TIME ALONE WITH GOD – PART 2

Bible Reading:  Psalm 84:1-12

I am often asked about the practical issues of where to pray and what physical posture to adopt in prayer. These issues genuinely trouble some people. Posture and style matter little to Daddy God but what does matter is that you spend time with Him!

Some people prefer to kneel; some stand, some walk, and others sit. There is no one posture that is the right posture. In 2 Chronicles 20:18-19, the people of Israel worshipped God after hearing His Word. Jehoshaphat bowed with his face to the ground, some fell down in worship, whilst others stood up and praised God with loud voices. If you get sleepy on your knees then change your position! The best posture in prayer is the one that you find easiest, most comfortable, and that most helps you to concentrate.

Many years ago two old ladies called me to help solve a problem. They didn’t have much money and had bought one very expensive recliner armchair and were now fighting over who should sit in it! There were three possibilities – make a rota and decide who sits in the chair each day; one of the ladies might graciously give way and let the other use it, or the third option was to get rid of the chair. They asked me take it away! That chair became my wife’s place of prayer, with her Bible, devotional books and worship CDs close by.

Another frequently asked question concerns the place to pray. Jesus spoke about going into your closet and praying in secret [Matthew 6:6]. Those who prefer to pray out loud should find a place where they are not disturbing other people. I remember hearing a soldier say that the only place in the barracks that he could guarantee to be alone to pray was in a toilet cubicle! In Bible School I used to pray each night after lights out in the broom cupboard. It was an ideal place because no one disturbed me there! For some it might be in the car in a quiet layby. What is important is that it is a place where you can meet with God without distraction.

Questions:

What is the thing that David most longs for in psalm 84?

According to Psalm 84, where do Christians get their strength from to continue on their journey with God?

In what way in Psalm 84 does David show humility even though he is the anointed king of Israel?

Would you find a quiet place and read aloud Psalm 84, and turn each verse of the Psalm into a personal prayer? 

TIME ALONE WITH GOD – PART 1

Bible Reading:  Matthew 6:5-15; Psalm 5:1-7  

Over the next three days we will consider some of the practical issues involved in having a quiet time – time alone with God. We will consider the best time to meet with God, how we go about it, and where is the best place to meet with Him.

In our busy world that special time each day to meet with God has become more and more vital. The primary purpose of this time is to have fellowship with God. Isn’t it remarkable that the God of the universe is waiting for us to draw near and have fellowship with Him? This is also a time to systematically read God’s Word and to receive strength for the day. It is so vital to our spiritual life that Satan will do all he can to distract us and oppose it.

One of the first questions many people ask is, “What time of the day should I do this?” There is no one answer. David said, “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” It is wonderful if you can meet with God early in the morning each day but for many people that is not very practical. We know that Jesus prayed at different times, both in the morning and sometimes He even prayed all night! We know that Daniel prayed three times each day, and continued to do this even when faced with the threat of being thrown to the lions [Daniel 6:10-11]. The most important thing is not when you do this but that you do it!

David Wilkerson, the founder of Teen Challenge, was very busy ministering to drug addicts and gang leaders. He would get home late in the evening and relax by watching late night television. His relationship with God deteriorated because he had little time to meet with Him. Isn’t it amazing that we can be so busy for God and yet spend so little time with Him? He recognized this and changed his life-style, and instead of watching late night television he turned that into his regular time for communion with God.

How long should this time be? It might be better to start for a short time each day and increase the time as you find it necessary to do so, rather than begin with a longer time and not be able to keep it up. The principle issue is that we take time to meet with God each day!

Questions:

Do you have a time alone with God each day? If not, why not make a decision to do so and ask God to help you do it each day?

If you do have a daily time alone with God how are you doing? Is the time you spend with Him really helping you? How might you be able to improve it?

What do you make of the statement, “When a person backslides, the first thing to go in their life is the quiet time each day with God?”

PRAYING WITH THE SPIRIT

Bible Reading:  Psalm 13:1-6

Yesterday we mentioned three experiences in prayer. I would like to enlarge on one of those today – praying with the spirit.

To understand this we really need to understand that man has a spirit, a soul and body. “How long shall I take counsel in my soul?” [Psalm 13:2, NASB].

The NIV equally correctly translates this as “How long must I wrestle with my thoughts.” Literally, David had been trying to work out his situation and his problems in a soulish way and it was unsuccessful. Our soul, that is our will, mind and emotions are not of themselves trustworthy.

Watchman Nee of China, in His remarkable book “Release of the Spirit,” says that when the soul is ruled over by man’s spirit indwelt by the Holy Spirit the result is a spiritual man, but when a man’s soul rules over his spirit the result is a carnal Christian. It needs to be understood that the spirit is that part of us that communicates with God. Before we were born again our soul was dead towards God – because of sin it was unable to do what God originally intended, that is to communicate with Him.

One of the keys therefore to successful praying is learning to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit indwelling our spirit, and not just praying according to the way our mind, emotions or will choose. As David discovered, the counsel of our soul will lead us astray and not help us, but when our soul submits to the Holy Spirit speaking in our spirit we will enjoy victory. In this sense prayer is an art because it requires time to listen and discern what the Holy Spirit is saying, and this takes both time and practice.

Our spirit grows as we feed it. A major emphasis has been to educate our intellect but our spirit need to feeds on the Word of God. Our spirit becomes stronger as we listen to the Holy Spirit and obey Him. Here is the heart of prayer and it requires time to develop.

Questions:

So much of our activity is making decisions and then asking God to bless the decisions that we have made. How does the kind of praying we have considered today differ from this?

What do you think of the statement by Watchman Nee and what difference would it make to your spiritual life if you do what he suggests?

Why do you think it is that as Christians we tend to put so much emphasis in the Western world on the intellect and not on the spirit?

WORDS, WORDS AND NO WORDS

Bible Reading:  1 Corinthians 14:13-17; Romans 8:26-27; 1 Samuel 1:9-17.

In his first letter to the Church in Corinth Paul says that he prays with his spirit and he also prays with his understanding [1 Corinthians 14:14-15]. In Romans 8:26-27 Paul writes about praying with wordless groans. Let’s take a look today at these three different experiences in prayer:

Praying with words that you understand. Paul is writing about praying with our natural faculties, our mind, as we sense the Holy Spirit is leading us and forming words that we understand.

Praying with words that you don’t understand. Paul calls it “praying with his spirit,” and in the context of 1 Corinthians 14:14-15 it is obviously using tongues in prayer. God has given tongues for various reasons, but in this case it is a prayer language. Two days ago I received a letter from a dear friend in Singapore who says, “Sometimes, I have difficulty in praying in English, so I just pray in tongues.” When we use tongues in prayer we do not understand what we are praying, although we may be focussing on a particular issue, but the Holy Spirit prays through us in His language. This has been especially powerful for my wife and me as we have faced difficult and dangerous situations on the mission field. Sometimes the oppression was so great that we did not know how to pray, and so we prayed in tongues with our spirits until the oppression and burden lifted. I doubt that we would have survived if we had not been able to do this.

Notice that in both these cases prayer is made with spoken words.

Praying with wordless groans. When our deepest emotions, kindled by the Holy Spirit, are too deep and intense for words. The Holy Spirit prays to God for us and on our behalf. We see something of this kind of praying in the life of Hannah. She was in deep anguish as she prayed. Eli, the priest, thought that Hannah was drunk because her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. She was praying out of deep anguish and grief [1 Samuel 1:9-17]. We also see it on at least two occasions in the life of Jesus. In His humanity Jesus groaned in His spirit when he saw Mary and the Jews weeping over the death of Lazarus [John 11:33]. We see again this anguish in prayer as Jesus prayed in Gethsemane [Luke 22:44]

Questions:

As you have read today’s reading is there something about prayer that has particularly challenged you, and especially prayer in your own life?

Many people have confused the use of tongues in a public meeting where it is accompanied by an interpretation with the use of tongues in private devotions and prayer. Why do you think that this confusion has existed?

ALL KINDS OF PRAYER – PART 4

Bible Reading:  John 15:1-8

In the final part of our four part mini series on “All Kinds of Prayer” we look at the fourth letter in our acronym which is S.

S stands for supplications!

The word supplication is translated as “petition” in more modern Bible translations. It means to make requests to God and therefore totally different to our three previous kinds of prayer, adoration, confession and thanksgiving.

God encourages us to ask for the things that we need, both for ourselves and for others. We must ask in a right spirit and not for selfish ends. James says,  “You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” [James 4:2b-3].

God’s knows the desires of your heart and He knows what is best for you. If you come as a child to Daddy God and make requests of Him he will answer. If what you are asking is not for you then He will say “No.” Otherwise He will say “Yes,” or ”Not yet.” Like any good Father he will not give his children what is harmful to them!

This morning in a prayer meeting someone read the story of George Muller aboard an Atlantic steamer somewhere off Newfoundland and in thick fog. Muller told the captain of the ship that he must keep his appointment in Quebec a few days later. The captain told him that in this fog it was impossible. Muller suggested that he and the captain go down to the chartroom to pray. He thought Muller was a lunatic and asked him if he knew how dense the fog was. Muller responded, “No. My eye is not on the density of the fog but on the living God who controls every circumstance of my life.” The captain later said:

“He got down on his knees and prayed one of the most simple prayers. I muttered to myself: ‘That would suit a children’s class where the children were not more than eight or nine years old.’ The burden of his prayer was something like this: ‘O Lord, if it is consistent with Thy will, please remove this fog in five minutes. You know the engagement you made for me in Quebec on Saturday. I believe it is your will.’”
Muller then said, “Get up, captain, and open the door, and you will find the fog is gone.” He looked and the fog was gone.

Questions:

What is your reaction to the remarkable story of Muller asking God to remove the fog? Would you pray for something like that?

Read John 15:7. What do make of the words “ask whatever you wish”?

What, according to John 15:1-8, are the keys to God answering our prayers?

ALL KINDS OF PRAYER – PART 3

Bible Reading: Luke 17:11-19

We continue today with the third letter of our acronym, A-C-T-S as we look at different kinds of prayer.

T stands for thanksgiving!

Writing to the Philippians the apostle Paul said, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” [Philippians 4:6]. Paul instructed the Christians in Colossae, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” [Colossians 4:2]. He also spoke about “overflowing with thankfulness” [Colossians 2:7]. This speaks of such a thankful heart that it overflows like a cup that is so full it flows over the brim! Perhaps a good prayer to pray would be, “Lord, fill my heart so much with thankfulness that there is no room for grumbling and complaining!” I am pretty certain that it would give our Daddy God great joy to answer that prayer.

However tough things are, there are always things that we can thank God for. An attitude of gratitude can totally change our lives. Instead of taking things for granted let’s begin to say thank you whenever possible! There is something beautiful and attractive about people who are full of thankfulness.

In our reading today Jesus healed ten lepers but only one of the ten came back to Him to say thank you – and he was a Samaritan! Jesus asked where the other nine were who had been healed. Then He said to the man who returned to say thank you, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” I wonder what happened to the other nine lepers who had no attitude of gratitude? Did they retain their healing – we don’t know, but we might wonder!

Prayer is coming into the presence of our Daddy God, and conversing and communing with Him. How does God’s Word say that we should come into His presence? “Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms” [Psalm 95:2] and “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name” [Psalm 100:4].

Questions:

1. Why do you think God’s word puts so much emphasis on thankfulness?

2. Would you make a list of ten things that you are thankful to God for and then share it with Him in prayer? Do you say thank you when God has answered your prayers?

3. Would you pray this pray every day for the next week: “Lord, fill my heart so much with thankfulness that there is no room for grumbling and complaining,” and begin to make a habit of saying thank you to God every day?

ALL KINDS OF PRAYER – PART 2

Bible Reading: Psalm 51:1-19; James 5:16; 1 John 1:8-2:2.

Yesterday I used the acronym A-C-T-S as we began to look at different kinds of prayer. Today we continue with the second of the acronym, the letter C.

C stands for confession!

We often fail and miserably so and confession is good for our soul. This does not mean that we should constantly live in condemnation, seeing ourselves only as wretched sinners. In Christ we are free from condemnation, but we are not free from committing sin. The hymn writer, Henry Twells, wrote, And they who fain would serve Thee best, Are conscious most of wrong within.”

When we are in a right relationship with God the Holy Spirit will show us where we sin. These might be sins of commission – things we did that we should not have done, or sins of omission – things we did not do that we should have done! Psalm 51 is David’s confession of sin. In his epistle, James tells us to confess our sins. John says that if we confess our sin there is forgiveness and cleansing. If we do sin Jesus stands before the Father on our behalf. Recognition and confession of sin is clearly an important aspect of prayer.

The third time that I was diagnosed with cancer my wife and I began to seek God together. The biopsy clearly showed cancer of the prostate measuring nine out of ten on a scale of aggressiveness. We took two specific steps in the face of this cancer. We went to a place where we knew that God was moving powerfully among people. We didn’t go looking for healing but to get into the presence of God. In a remarkable way God spoke to me and told me three times that this was not the end but the beginning. The second thing that we did was to take communion every morning for six weeks. We focused on the cross and asked God to show anything in my life that was a reason for the cancer. They were six amazing weeks as the Holy Spirit brought to my attention different things that had displeased Him over many years. He showed me a wrong act here, a harsh word there, and wrong attitudes. It was not me digging – but the Holy Spirit bringing things back to my remembrance as I allowed Him to do so. One of the happiest of days was when the oncologist told us that she was bemused and could find no sign of cancer.

Questions:

1. Hudson-Taylor, the great missionary to China, said, “Keep short accounts with God.” What do you think that he might mean by this?

2. It is so easy to point the finger at others but not see sin in our own life. Read Psalm 139:23-24. Would you sincerely pray this today and if God shows you anything that displeases him confess it and ask for His cleansing?