Category Archives: Prayer

4 Things Before Saying Sorry (The Lord’s Prayer)

Was thinking this morning about The Lord’s prayer – I love how God designed such a simple framework for us to be able to come to him.

“This, then, is how you should pray:
“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our [sins],
as we also have forgiven those who [sin against us].
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one. ’
– Matthew 6:9-13

Yet for so many of us – as soon as we think about God or come to pray, we become immediately conscious of our unworthiness and the various ways that we have failed God and others. Yes, sin is a thing and it does have the effect of isolating us from God and people. We need God’s forgiveness and cleansing to be healed and made righteous for sure.

But what struck me this morning was how much there is in the Lord’s Prayer before you get to the lines ‘Forgive us our sins…’.

Think about it.

The Lord’s Prayer doesn’t start with ‘Forgive me Father for I have sinned…’ does it?

In fact there’s actually 4 things that we pray before we get to asking God for forgiveness. Interesting eh. I don’t believe this is a mistake on God’s part or that He overlooked something here.

The Lord’s Prayer wasn’t designed to be prayed by perfect Christians who’ve already got everything sorted out. No, it’s a way that anyone can approach the Father, no matter where they come from or what they’ve done.

Embedded in the opening lines of this prayer is a wonderful demonstration of God’s love and commitment to us as a good Father!

1) “Our Father…”

Regardless of where you feel like your life is at, these two words show us two things:

‘Our’ tells us that we belong to a group of people. I’m not a perfect husband, father, son or brother – but my status as a member of a family doesn’t change depending on my righteousness. Starting with ‘our’ reminds me that I always remain part of a group of people who call on the Name of God – regardless of what my life might look like right now.

‘Father’ tells us that His relationship to us doesn’t change. We don’t start with ‘Lord’ or ‘Master’ and then finally say ‘Father’ once we’ve gotten cleaned up through prayer. We start with Father. He is always ‘our Father’. It doesn’t change.

2) “Hallowed Be Your Name…”

This shows me that I can still give God glory and worship from an imperfect life. The idea that we have to get our lives perfect before we can come to God is a religious lie. It’s THROUGH prayer and worship that we become righteous.

I’m not condoning sin or saying it doesn’t matter – but just pointing out that Jesus deliberately put ‘Hallowed be thy name’ in the prayer ahead of ‘Forgive us our sins…’.

God has made a way for us to give Him glory even before our lives get sorted out and often it’s as we start to worship Him that we move into a place where He can deal with our sin.

3) “Your kingdom come, your will be done…”

This reminds me that about God’s overall mission on earth. This line gives me the WHY of my life… why I’m here, why God has given me the gifts and talents he has. It’s because He’s extending His kingdom.

I’m not just asking for forgiveness so I can stop being a ‘bad person’. My being cleansed and made righteous means that I can move and work in His kingdom more effectively.

4) “Give us today our daily bread…”

In natural human relationships, we don’t tend to do kind things for people who’ve upset us… at least until they’ve apologised to us!

But again God shows us just how different He is to us. Whether or not my kids behave doesn’t change my fatherly desire to make sure they’ve got what they need to survive.

God is a good Father! We can just ask Him for stuff. It’s not a matter of rooting out every little thing we might have done wrong before we can ask our heavenly Father for what we need.

Finally…

Obviously I’m not downplaying the need for us to ask for forgiveness and repent of our sin. It’s vitally important and one of the jobs of the Holy Spirit is to convict us and show us areas of our lives where things are out of alignment with Him.

I’m also not saying that living righteously doesn’t help us see our Father more clearly, worship more powerfully, understand His mission more readily or ask Him for our needs more effectively! Purity and holiness in our lives enable us to move in a closer way to God’s heartbeat and see things that we’d be blind to otherwise.

But I do believe this… that God has much more for our lives than just a constant cycle of ‘sin-repent-sin-repent’! Jesus died on the cross to cleanse us from sin so that we can get on with the real business of His kingdom and His plans!

So the next time you think about God or come to prayer, put your fears and unworthiness to one side for a moment and remind yourself that He’s STILL your Father, you can STILL worship Him, you’re STILL part of His mission and you can STILL ask Him for things.

His heart towards you and promises for you don’t change!

Advertisements

The Call Of A Minister

“My sons, do not be negligent now, for the LORD has chosen you to stand before him and serve him, to minister before him and to burn incense.” – 2 Chronicles 29:11

Been really struck recently about how EVERY Christian is called to be a leader, a minister – ‘Senior Pastor’ of their world.  It’s a mindset change that is necessary for the people of God to get out of child mode and into maturity mode!

A few notes out of this verse:

* Ministers stand before God. They hang around him and are ready to do His bidding at a moments notice.  They live as servants firstly of God.  They belong to Him.

* Ministers minister to God.  Not for Him but TO Him.  His pleasure and delight is the focus of their ministry.  They give their devotion and affection to the Lord.

* Ministers minister with a sense of God’s closeness.  They minister ‘before Him’ – although their ministry may be to people, their eyes are firmly fixed on God.  They live for the applause of One.

* Ministers burn incense continually.  Incense speaks of prayer.  They live with a continual connection with God.  There is always a sweet fragrance coming off their lives.

He’s At The Door! (The Process Of Answered Prayer)

Acts 12:12 – Thinking about that, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying.
Acts 12:13 – When Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a maid named Rhoda came to answer.
Acts 12:14 – When she recognized Peter’s voice, she didn’t open the gate for joy, but ran in, and reported that Peter was standing in front of the gate.
Acts 12:15 – They said to her, “You are crazy!” But she insisted that it was so. They said, “It is his angel.”
Acts 12:16 – But Peter continued knocking. When they had opened, they saw him, and were amazed.

The apostle Peter is in prison, and on death row by the hand of Herod.  So the early church is praying hard out for him to be released and for God to intervene.  There’s a bunch of things in this little passage about PRAYERS GETTING ANSWERED!

1) God was working on the answer to the prayer while they were still praying

The people didn’t know it – but while they were in their prayer meeting, God was at work in Peter’s prison cell.  He’d already made it out while they were still praying!  This demonstrates the power of prayer!

Last night I found about a stunning answer to prayer in a situation I’d been praying pretty hard for.  It was such a reminder that we should continue to pray and never give up!  The devil will do anything he can to try to get us to a place where we feel like prayer doesn’t count or isn’t powerful. 

But not only that – the answers to our prayers are often taking place where we can’t even see them.  The people were unaware that Peter was already walking free as they continued on in their prayer. 

2) Can You Hear Your Miracle Knocking?

There would have been a bunch of church heavyweights at the prayer meeting – but it was the maid who heard the knock at the door.  I’m sure that the prayer meeting would have been pretty noisy as all these people cried out and interceded.  But in the midst of the noise we’re making about our troubles or issues – could it be that God has already released our answer and we don’t even know about it? 

It reminds me of the story in 2 Kings 7 where the four lepers went out and discovered that God had routed the enemy of Israel, while everyone else was still stuck inside the city fearing for their life.  Yesterday Paul Saunders spoke at The River about Jacob saying ‘God was in this place, and I didn’t even know it’. 

I don’t think it was an accident that the maid noticed before the spiritual heavyweights… it’s because she would have been listening!  Stay attuned to what is happening around you… God may have already answered your prayer!

3) Rejoice Before You See

The maid didn’t even see Peter’s face – she just heard his voice.  That was enough for her – and leaving the poor apostle locked outside she runs back to the prayer meeting to bring the good news.  Elijah didn’t see the rain, he just ‘heard the sound’, and saw a cloud the size of a man’s hand.  That was enough for him! 

Miracles will start to speak before they appear – things begin to change, a good report starts to come.  Yet the maid didn’t open the door.  The door speaks of our heart – sometimes when God starts to answer our prayers, we still don’t actually open our hearts.  We leave them closed because we maybe we’ve been hurt before. 

4) Don’t Be Surprised If People Think You’re A Fool

Every person who has been seriously used by God has gone through a process by which others thought they were a fool before God answered their prayer.  This prayer meeting of the early church – the place where people are getting healed and miracles are happening all the time – called the maid crazy because she believed that the prayer they’d all been praying had been answered!

4) Expect Answers To Your Prayers

I think it’s very telling that this group of people were having a prayer meeting for something that they obviously didn’t believe was going to happen!  In fact, they have more faith that it’s Peter’s angel than Peter got out of prison!  And if it was Peter’s angel knocking on the door – why didn’t they go ahead and open up the door, rather than calling the maid crazy?! 

5) God’s Answers Will Keep On Knocking

God knows that we’re not always the sharpest at picking up on when He’s doing something.  Fortunately for us, He doesn’t just knock once – but keeps on knocking!  He calls us to be persistent in prayer with Him, because He’s persistent with us! 

Breaking Open Historic Wells

From there they continued on to Beer, the well where the LORD said to Moses, “Gather the people together and I will give them water.”  Then Israel sang this song: “Spring up, O well! Sing about it, about the well that the princes dug, that the nobles of the people sank– the nobles with scepters and staffs.” – Numbers 21:16-18 (NIV)

In their journey towards the Promised Land, the Israelites came to a place where God promised to give them water.  It was called ‘Beer’ (which in Hebrew means ‘water’) – but interestingly it doesn’t seem like there’s any water there – as God has to specifically tell Moses that He will give water to the people.  So the people sing, and the princes and nobles dig, and the water flows. 

Leadership Principles

There’s some keys in this passage for those who are leaders – as every leader in some way is a shepherd, with the responsibility of both feeding the sheep and leading them to water.  We feed them with the Word of God, but in order to water them, we must bring them into places where they encounter His power and presence.  Churches and leaders need both the Word and the Spirit working simultaneously in order for the ‘sheep’ to be healthy.  So how do we get a ‘well’ going for our people when it seems like it’s all dry?

Key 1 – Find An Historic Well

The Israelites came to a place called Beer, called water.  There may not have been any water there when they arrived, but there must have been water there at some point in the past for it to have received the name it did.  God has ordained a whole lot of different ‘wells’ for His people to drink from, but many of them have been stopped up or stopped flowing over the years.  But the water is still there, under the ground – ready to be tapped.  Some of these wells include salvation, healing, revival, worship.  When these wells get tapped then power begins to flow and the people of God get refreshed. 

Key 2 – Gather The People Together

The power of unity is well documented in the Word of God – and is an essential key if we’re going to get a well going.  The people must be gathered together, and given a common focus and plan.  Without a united group people – no well will be opened.  But when the people are together – then God’s blessing quickly comes upon the work.  We unite the people by showing them why they need the well – and what has happened historically when that well has been opened.

Key 3 – Sing To It

Worship has supernatural power to unblock wells.  One of the best ways that we can start to unblock a particular well is by choosing songs that we sing together about that well.  For example, if we want to see a healing well unblocked – then it’s important that we’re corporately singing songs about God’s healing power.  The worship not only ‘speaks’ to the situation with words of power, but worship also carries God’s transforming power to change the hearts and minds of those who worship.  Worship gets into the hearts and minds of the people.  Whatever we sing to will spring up in our midst! 

Key 4 – Get The Leaders And Nobles Digging

The final key is to get those who have visible leadership – the ‘leaders’ and ‘nobles’ – to get them ‘digging’ alongside you.  Get them committed to prayer & fasting, and to speaking and encouraging the others.  Get them investing in it. 

In Conclusion

When Israel rocked up to Beer, there was no water there.  But they left behind them a flowing well.  God is calling us to be people like that too – who come into situations where there is no life, and not only get life flowing in our time, but leave behind us a legacy for those who will follow as well. 

The Vow Of The Nazirite

I don’t usually write messages that I preach at church up here (maybe I should) but I thought this message which I brought at our evening meeting last night could be a helpful insight for someone!

We know that Christianity is free… but to follow Jesus will cost you everything!  There is a price to pay to walk in the power of God, but this price has nothing to do with our sin as Jesus has already paid for that.  No, the price we pay has to do with the changes that need to happen in our lives to accomodate more of God’s presence and power. 

A grass airstrip is fine if you want to land a small plane.  But if you want a 747 to land, you need to clear a lot of space and build a tarmac airstrip.  God has some 747’s that are flying around that He wants to land and He’s looking for lives to land them in.  These big jets carry many of the things that the church is looking for to be released, but unfortunately most people simply have a grass airstrip.

Which brings me to ‘The Vow Of The Nazirite’.  In the Old Testament, God set aside a way that those who wanted to be devoted to Him, could be. Naturally the zealots looked at this as a way of them showing everyone else that they were the best Jews.  But God’s point in establishing the Nazirite Vow wasn’t to encourage ellitism – rather it was to provide a way for those who had a genuine heart and desire to be set apart for God for His purposes. 

Numbers 6:1-8 contains the description of what the Nazirite vow entailed. 

This passage gives us 3 things:

* no alcohol,

* long hair,

* no dead bodies.

Now this doesn’t mean that we succeed if we have long-haired teetotallers who don’t hang around funeral homes!  That’s not the point.  For us today – it’s symbolic – and makes sense as we start to unpack it.  

Before I start, I’ll mention this – as I’ve prayed and studied… these are the conclusions I’ve come to.  Others may get other things out of this passage – I’m not claiming this to be the definitive work on the subject.  

So what does this kind of heart toward God look like in our day?

1) No alcohol – ABSTAINING FROM WORLDLY PLEASURES

For the people of the Old Testament, alcohol was a pleasure that they engaged in when they came to ‘chill out’.  They didn’t have TV & Playstations!  If we’re going to translate this first one into our context today – I think it’s about more than alcohol.  I believe it’s actively looking to abstain from worldly pleasures so that we can more actively seek God.  

Now get me right – I’m not talking about a bunch of self-righteous people who who look with disdain upon anyone else who isn’t doing what they’re doing.  It’s about, through love, looking for ways that we can accommodate more of God in our lives. 

The word ‘Nazirite’ comes from the Hebrew word Nazir – which means to keep something for special.  All of us I’m sure have stuff that we ‘keep for special’.  

In a large house there are articles not only of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay; some are for noble purposes and some for ignoble.  If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be an instrument for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work. – 2 Timothy 2:20-21 (NIV)  

We get to choose (to a certain extent) how God uses our lives.  If we set our lives apart – nazir – build a big landing strip on our lives – He can use us for bigger purposes.  But if we fill our lives up with common, everyday busyness… it becomes harder for God to use us for His purposes.  There are times and seasons in your life where you may want to forgo some of the usual worldly things that you enjoy in order that you can make more room in your life for God to move.  Sometimes people make a decision that a certain thing is actually distracting them from going further with God – so they make a decision that they’re going to abstain for it from here on out.  

2) Long Hair – STANDING OUT / BEING INCONVENIENCED

People who were making a Nazirite vow physically stood out from others (especially the men).  In order to increase your capacity to become an ‘airstrip for God’, He’s going to make you do stuff that will make you stand out!  It may be shutting down gossip in the workplace, sharing your testimony or having to pray for healing for someone.  The increase in your heart will come as you obediently follow God’s direction – not just in your times of prayer or when you’re around Christians – but at all times!

Not only that, but long hair can be a real inconvenience!  I know, because I had it for a while!  And in the same way, when we’re looking for God to increase our capacity for more of Him – get prepared to be inconvenienced!  If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.  How many times have you committed to fast, only to be invited out for an all expenses paid lunch?!  The Holy Spirit will often nudge us to do things that are a great inconvenience to us.  But obeying Him is how we grow! 

3) Avoiding Dead Bodies – LEAVING GRIEF/PAIN BEHIND

This is proof that we’re not supposed to take this literally – how could we raise people from the dead if we’re not allowed to touch dead bodies!  One way that we can bring this forward into our time is by NOT CONTINUALLY WEEPING OVER THINGS THAT HAVE BEEN LOST.

All of us have experienced loss & pain.  But the one who wants to devote their life to God says to Him – ‘I’m going to serve you in my pain.  I’m not going to stop serving you to deal with it’.  I always find it amazing how some people have huge amounts of pain and keep serving God.  Others have a little, and they stop their whole lives.

If you’re wanting to see the power of God come into your life – be a person who puts God first in spite of your pain.

IN CONCLUSION

VOW OF THE NAZIRITE IS ABOUT THROUGH LOVE, CREATING SPACE IN YOUR LIFE SO THAT GOD’S POWER AND PRESENCE CAN MOVE THROUGH YOU MORE.

Hunger Follows Seeking

“God, you are my God. I will earnestly seek you. My soul thirsts for you. My flesh longs for you…” – Psalms 63:1

Often we can wait until we sense the urge to seek God before we start to actively seek Him.  But what this verse shows us is that our ‘soul thirsting for God’ follows a decision to ‘earnestly seek you’.  The decision to seek comes first – the thirst and hunger follows it.  It’s the result of the very first part of this verse – God being our God.  When He is our God we make a choice to seek Him, and our appetite for Him grows.  

It works the same way with natural hunger – in order to increase your appetite, you have to start by eating more (not that increasing a food appetitie is something most people want to do!).  What feels unnatural to begin with will start to become normal over time.  When it comes to seeking God – there’s a battle over your flesh that you must win first.  

If you seek God – even when you don’t feel like it – you’ll start to develop a hunger and thirst for Him that will grow!  You’ll begin to pray and worship outside of just Sundays – and His power and presence will begin to flow into every part of your life!