Friday, November 17, 2017

Pray from the Heart

“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.
“Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him.
Matthew 6:5-8, NKJV
Pray from the Heart
Rather than follow a chronological arrangement of the prayers of the Bible, I would prefer to move around by going  back and forth between the Old and New Testaments. Before looking at specific prayers from the New Testament, it would be good for us to summarize Christ's teaching on prayer and apply them to our own manner of praying.
Prayer, according to the Lord Jesus Christ needs to be from the heart. It is not an outward exercise to follow so that others may see how great and devout we are, but rather a humble coming before God in all of our own unworthiness. God sees us as we truly are; He knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts.
Knowing that, we come before God as Psalm 42:1 (NKJV) explains, 
As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God.

What does the Bible have to say about our hearts? Jeremiah 17:9 (NKJV), tell us, 
“The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?"
So, we find two contrasts. Left to ourselves, our hearts are very deceitful to the point that even we, ourselves, are deceived. Yet, there is hope in Christ. Christ changes those deceitful hearts and gives us hearts like that of a deer who is longing for the water brooks to quench his thirst.
As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we know that we have an advocate in Christ. We come to Him naked, destitute, and blind. In His great love He clothes us in His righteousness, grants us the riches of glory, and gives us eyes to see and perceive the wonders of His glory.
When we pray, then, let us come to the Lord Jesus Christ just as we are. Let us speak with Him as one friend to another, pleading for His help to live this life in a manner than is pleasing to Him.
What of the person who knows nothing of Christ? Go to God. Plead with Him that He will take your sinful, deceitful heart and make it pure. How can He do such a thing? It has already been done by the Lord Jesus Christ. He left the glories of heaven to come to this earth for one reason: that He might purchase salvation for His people. How did He accomplish such a thing? He bore our sins on the cross of calvary, died, was buried, was resurrected, and ascended in Heaven where He sits at the right hand of God the Father.
In Heaven, He continually makes intercession for us before God Almighty so that when God looks upon us, He does not see our sin, but rather sees the righteous blood of Christ. Cry out, then, to the Lord Jesus Christ to save you!
Pray that God would give you eyes to see, ears to hear, and hearts of understanding!
What an amazing God we serve!
God Bless You,

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

First Recorded Prayer

And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee!
Genesis 17:18, KJV

Genesis 17 records a conversation between God and Abraham. 

1 And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the Lord appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect.
And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.
And Abram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying,
As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.
Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.
And I will make thee exceeding fruitful, and I will make nations of thee, and kings shall come out of thee.
And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.
And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, the land wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.
And God said unto Abraham, Thou shalt keep my covenant therefore, thou, and thy seed after thee in their generations.
Genesis 17:1-9, KJV
First Recorded Prayer
One has to appreciate the fact that the Old Testament saints were just people like you and me. God literally pours out His heart and plans to Abraham promising to make a covenant between Abraham and his seed. He will no longer be called Abram, but because God will make him the father of many nations, he will be called Abraham.
How does Abraham respond to this amazing declaration by God to him?
Abraham says, in essence, "God, are you not forgetting something? Sarai and I have no children and I am now 90 years old." So he states in verse 18, "O that Ishmael might live before thee."
Like Abraham, we are prone to read the promises of God given to us in His Holy Word and then dismiss them as not possibly being able to apply to us. So, Abraham presented Ishmael to God and asked, "Can you not bring me all of these amazing events through the son I already have?"
Sarah is too old to bear children, so there is no way that Abraham can perceive of God making him a father of many nations through a son he does not have. 
Do we do this same thing in our prayers to God? Here we have recorded the first actual prayer in the Word of God and it is a prayer of doubt and compromise. Abraham's very words display his lack of confidence in God, so he conveniently provides a compromise through his son, Ishmael.
Having the Bible, we already know how God answered this prayer. Abraham was denied this request by God. God had a better plan and certainly had no problem bringing His plan to pass.
What kind of God do we serve? Do we serve a God whom we cannot trust? Are we constantly in doubt that our God can provide for us? Do we find ourselves making compromises to God that we believe are more fitting for our lifestyle or our circumstances?
Let us remember that there is only one God. The God of the Bible--the God of Abraham--is the same God we worship today. Every promise He has made in His Word has already come to pass or will come to pass in future days just as He has proclaimed.
If you are not a believer, there is one prayer you need to make. Recognizing that, before a holy, righteous, and pure God, you are filled with darkness and sin, you need to cry out to Him for salvation. No man who has ever lived, apart from the Lord Jesus Christ, has had the ability to stand before God. The Lord Jesus Christ, the perfect man and perfect God, came here for one purpose, and that was to die for His people. On the cross, He bore our sins. He bled and died so that we might have His righteousness poured upon us.
Does that mean we become sinless when we become a believer? No! We will be tainted with sin as long as we live on this earth. But, in Christ we find perfect forgiveness. When we come to Him for salvation, our lives are changed forever. No longer do we desire to be consumed by the things of this world, but rather, we look to God and His Holy Word to teach us how to live in a manner pleasing to God. The Holy Spirit has been given to us to teach and guide us while we are still in this world.
If you are a believer, what God do you serve? Do you serve the God of the Bible, or do you find yourself trying to accommodate God's Word (and God, Himself) to fit your lifestyle? 
Let us pray that we will serve the one and only true God--the God of Abraham. If we find that our prayers remain unanswered, maybe God has a better plan in store for us.
The things of this earth will only satisfy us for a very short time, but in Christ we find love, joy, and peace that will last for all eternity!
What an amazing God we serve!

God Bless You,

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Hagar and the Angel

And Sarai said unto Abram, Behold now, the Lord hath restrained me from bearing: I pray thee, go in unto my maid; it may be that I may obtain children by her. And Abram hearkened to the voice of Sarai.
And Sarai Abram's wife took Hagar her maid the Egyptian, after Abram had dwelt ten years in the land of Canaan, and gave her to her husband Abram to be his wife.
And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes.
And Sarai said unto Abram, My wrong be upon thee: I have given my maid into thy bosom; and when she saw that she had conceived, I was despised in her eyes: the Lord judge between me and thee.
But Abram said unto Sarai, Behold, thy maid is in thine hand; do to her as it pleaseth thee. And when Sarai dealt hardly with her, she fled from her face.
And the angel of the Lord found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.
And he said, Hagar, Sarai's maid, whence camest thou? and whither wilt thou go? And she said, I flee from the face of my mistress Sarai.
And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Return to thy mistress, and submit thyself under her hands.
10 And the angel of the Lord said unto her, I will multiply thy seed exceedingly, that it shall not be numbered for multitude.
11 And the angel of the Lord said unto her, Behold, thou art with child and shalt bear a son, and shalt call his name Ishmael; because the Lord hath heard thy affliction.
12 And he will be a wild man; his hand will be against every man, and every man's hand against him; and he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.
13 And she called the name of the Lord that spake unto her, Thou God seest me: for she said, Have I also here looked after him that seeth me?
Genesis 16:2-13, KJV

Hagar and the Angel

Who was Hagar, and what made her so special that she received a visit from the Angel of the Lord?

Hagar was Sarai's handmaiden, or slave. She had no personal rights as is shown by this narrative from Genesis 16. Sarai was unable to bear children, so, like we so often do, she took matters into her own hand. She decided that if her handmaiden bore a child, then she could claim this child as her own, thus solving the problem of her own barren condition. 

How often do we do the same thing? God does not answer our prayers in the manner in which we believe He should, so we determine to solve the problem in our own way. 

However, as is also the normal case, nothing went the way Sarai imagined it would. Hagar did, indeed, become pregnant by Abram, but now Hagar looked down upon Sarai. She may only be a slave, but she was able to do what Sarai could not--become pregnant by Abram. She was no longer the diminutive, submissive slave.

When Sarai brought her complaints to Abram, he told Sarai to do whatever she chose with Hagar. Sarai, in retaliation, treated Hagar harshly.

One has to feel a great deal of empathy for Hagar. She chose none of this on her own, and now she was being treated harshly by her mistress. She did, again, what we are so often prone to do--she ran away.

And, that is where the Angel of the Lord found her. And the angel of the LORD found her by a fountain of water in the wilderness, by the fountain in the way to Shur.  Genesis 16:7

What an amazing God we serve. Hagar, just a poor slave, was visited by an angel of the Lord with a message from God. This child she carried was a boy whom she was to name Ishmael. Though he would be a wild man, yet we know from a later passage that he, too, would become the ruler of a nation of people. God told her to return to Sarai and submit herself to her mistress.

How can we apply this passage to our lives today? Most of us live a relatively free life compared to that of Hagar. Though we may have others who make decisions for us, we have the freedom to make most of life's choices on our own.

Let us think of the lessons we can learn from Hagar.

First, we are not too little or too unimportant to be heard by God. As believers, we know that God chose us in Him before time began. He chose us while we were yet sinners. He did not say, "I see some good in that man, woman, or child, so I will call them to be my child." 

How can a holy, righteous, and pure God speak to us who are poor, wretched, and blind before Him? He is sinless and we are filled with hearts that are prone to wander from this God we love. The answer is in Christ. Christ did what we cannot do. He bore our sins and suffered God's wrath when those very sins were poured upon Him on the cross.

Second, Hagar submitted herself to the Lord even though it would prove to be a very costly decision. If we have never gone before Christ and submitted ourselves to Him, then now is the day of salvation. Only in Christ can we be freed from our sins. Let us submit ourselves to Christ, confessing our sins and inability to serve Him in our own power. Let us call upon Him to save us and make us His child, forever!

If we are children of God, let us remember that God is truly sovereign. He loves us and cares for us more than we can ever know. Because that is true, He does not always guide and direct us in the way we want to go. Sometimes it is necessary to just quietly, like Hagar, submit ourselves to our Lord and Savior. Only in Christ and in submitting to Him can we find perfect joy, perfect happiness, and perfect peace--not just now, but for all eternity!

There are many more lessons we can learn from Hagar, but she will appear again very soon when she has another conversation with an angel of the Lord in the wilderness.

In closing, note that God appeared to Hagar in the wilderness. Often our most treasured experiences with the Lord are in our own times of wilderness wandering. 

May you go to Christ, today. Rest in Him for, as His child, He loves you more than you can ever imagine.

God Bless You,