Today's "thoughts" have to do with prayer. They contain two important and needed reminders regarding prayer. The first is from the daily devotional "Our Daily Bread," and the second is found in the devotional, "Streams in the Desert." Since I use both in my morning prayer/devotion time, and both entries were related, I thought I would share them in tandem. If you happen to use those books and have read either of these recently (since one was the entry for October 30, and the other was yesterday, November 6), sorry for the repetition! Although good reminders deserve repeated consideration! Enjoy.
"The Battle is Not Ours, but God's."
(II Chronicles 20:15)
"There are times when doing nothing is better than doing something. [Times when doing nothing takes more faith than doing something.] Those are the times when God alone can do what is needed. True faith trusts Him then, and Him alone, to do the miracle. Moses and Jehosaphat knew this secret. They knew the same Lord and the same divine grace.
As the pursuing Egyptians trapped the helpless Israelites at the Red Sea, Moses said: "Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you... The LORD will fight for you; you need only be still" (Exodus 14:13-14).
As the Moabites and the Ammonites, a vast multitude, closed in on Judah, King Jehosaphat said to the helpless people: "Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. The battle is not yours, but God's... You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions, stand firm, and see the deliverance the LORD will give you" (II Chronicles 20:15 and 17). When God alone can win the victory, faith lets God do it all. In such times it is better to trust than to try. Faith is the victory that overcomes."
Our Prayers, God’s Timing
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)
Sometimes God takes His time in answering our prayers, and that isn’t always easy for us to understand. That was the situation for Zechariah, a priest whom the angel Gabriel appeared to one day near an altar in the temple in Jerusalem. Gabriel told him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John” (Luke 1:13). Yet, Zechariah had probably asked God for a child years before and struggled with Gabriel’s message because Elizabeth was now well beyond the expected age for childbirth. Still, God answered his prayer.
God’s memory is perfect. He is able to remember our prayers not only for years but also for generations beyond our lifetime. He never forgets them and may move in response to them long after we first brought our requests to Him. Sometimes His answer is “no,” other times it is “wait”— but His response is always measured with love. God’s ways are beyond us, but we can trust that they are good.
Zechariah learned this. He asked for a son, but God gave him even more. His son John would grow up to be the very prophet who would announce the arrival of the Messiah. Zechariah’s experience demonstrates a vital truth that should also encourage us as we pray: God’s timing is rarely our own, but it is always worth waiting for. When we cannot see God’s hand at work, we can still trust His heart. (James Banks)
Faith is hard for the fearful and impatient. Prayer, therefore, is also a struggle for the fearful and impatient. Why? Because once our prayers are offered up to God, whether they are offered once, or numerous times (it does not matter), or offered with great faith or a struggling faith (it does not matter), they are still sifted through the filter of God's goodness and holy love for us.
Speaking of how the Holy Spirit helps us with our weaknesses, and intercedes for us with groans words cannot express as He carries out His ministry of interceding for the saints in accordance with God's will (Romans 8:26-27), A. B. Simpson once wrote: "We can simply pour from the fullness of our heart the burden of our spirit and the sorrow that seems to crush us. We can know God hears, loves, understands, receives, and separates from our prayers everything that is in error, imperfect, or wrong. And then He presents the remainder, along with the incense of our great High Priest, before God's throne on high."
This is such an important truth. God knows what we need. He knows when we need it by. He knows if it is urgent or not. And He also knows whether it would be good for us, or hurt us, or ruin the fruit of trust and patience that He's trying to work in us if He were to answer it immediately when we don't need it immediately! In fact, He knows if getting what we ask for would actually hurt us, and therefore, out of His great love for us refuses to answer some of our prayers -- at least not how we ask them.
We must remember that true prayer is not a magic formula. It is not an attempt to use "positive thinking" or "mind power" to get whatever we want as soon as we want it. Prayer is offering our desires, needs, wants and concerns before the God who loves us, knowing that even if we have all the faith in the world God will not give us something that will damage us. Far more than even the best of all earthly parents, God filters our requests through His parental love and concern for our good.
That's one of the major differences between prayer and positive confession. Positive confession often forgets that in prayer we are addressing an all-wise, all-good, all-knowing and holy God who loves us so much He doesn't care how much faith or confidence we have if we are asking for something that would not be good for us. He doesn't care how passionate or convinced we are that we will get something immediately if we just ask fervently enough. If getting it too soon would hurt our character or make us like impatient or spoiled children, He will, out of love, delay or even refuse to indulge us. After all, just think what our children would grow up to be like if they got everything they asked for (or demanded) the minute they demanded it!
In the Service of Jesus, Pastor Jeff