The Effective Prayer

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Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months. Then he prayed again, and the sky poured rain and the earth produced its fruit.

~James‬ ‭5‬:‭16-18~

Prayer is a powerful force.

Near the end of the book of James, Elijah is presented as an example of effective prayer. (If you are unfamiliar with Elijah, I highly suggest reading 1 Kings 17-19 to get a good background on Him. God performed amazing miracles through Elijah in order to remind the Israelites that there is only one God.) There are plenty of examples in the scriptures of effective prayer, but James chose Elijah.

“Elijah was a man with a nature like ours…”

What does that mean?

Although Elijah was a great prophet and performed great miracles, he was still human. He was prone to weakness, despair and anger just as we are. Our prayers to God are just as valuable as Elijah’s. We can pray effectively, just as Elijah did and God will answer. We don’t have to be a great prophet, a well-known orator, a church leader or anyone recognized by people as having great importance. If we have become a child of God through baptism, He has made us righteous and we are important to Him. We can pray to great effect.

1 Kings 18 which details the incident being referenced by James:

“Now Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink; for there is the sound of the roar of a heavy shower.”… Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he crouched down on the earth and put his face between his knees. He said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go back” seven times.

It came about at the seventh time, that he said, “Behold, a cloud as small as a man’s hand is coming up from the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, so that the heavy shower does not stop you.'” In a little while the sky grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy shower.”

~1 Kings‬ ‭18‬:‭41-45‬ NASB

I want you to notice a few elements present in this passage. First, Elijah prayed seven times and each time had his servant check to see if the rain was on its way. He didn’t stop asking for rain after the third prayer.

Or the fourth.

Or the fifth.

He prayed repeatedly until he saw results.

Another important point: Elijah had confidence the Lord was going to send the rain. He told Ahab rain was coming and then started praying. Third, he kept looking for the results.

This passage points to three key element to effective prayer:

1) Keep asking.
2) Keep watching.
3) Keep trusting.

1) Keep Asking. Persistence pays off.

Elijah prayed 7 times for the rain. He was persistent.

Jesus also encouraged persistent prayer.

“And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? (‭Luke‬ ‭18‬:‭1-7‬ ESV, emphasis mine)

Jesus shows that if persistence can be effective on an uncaring man, how much more with God!

Marvelous things can happen through persistent, purposeful prayer.

2) Keep Watching.

When we pray for our needs, we are usually looking for the answer to come. Do we exercise the same watchfulness when we pray for others? I have, to my shame, prayed for people and then forgotten that I prayed or simply failed to follow up with them to see how they were doing. The truth of the matter is we may not get to see the results, but we will most certainly see fail to witness ANY results if we don’t follow up with the people we are praying for.

This leads us to the next point…

3) Keep Trusting.

God is faithful to His promises. Elijah had confidence that God would answer his prayer. Jesus encourages us to have confidence. He doesn’t want us to lose heart. If you are having trouble trusting in God to answer your prayer, start digging in the word. If you need some direction on where to look, please check out this series of posts on faithfulness.

If we don’t have confidence in prayer, then why are we asking? If we don’t trust God to do what’s best for us, why are we following Him?

The Word is full of assurance that God will answer our prayers.

Consider:

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.

~‭I John‬ ‭5‬:‭14-15‬ NKJV

also:

“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.

~ Luke‬ ‭11‬:‭9-10‬ NASB

This week I want to encourage you to try something new. (If you are already doing something similar, keep on keepin’ on!)

Find one to two people that have a specific need for which they have requested prayer. Write down their name(s) and their specific issue or need. Put this in a place where you pray regularly. Pray for them at least once a day in your prayers, laying out the issue before the Lord. After a week, call the person/people and see how they are doing. If you feel a week is too soon, make it two weeks, but set a date. Write it on your calendar, set an alarm, do something to remind yourself to call, text or simply make time to be with that person to see how things are going with regard to your prayers on their behalf.

Pray and don’t lose heart!

God is Faithful

This is part of a series of God’s Faithfulness. To read the previous post, click here.

“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for Him.’

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him, to the one who seeks Him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.”

~Lamentations 3:19 – 26

My last several posts focused on prayer and thanksgiving. While this series of posts isn’t specifically about prayer, it intertwines with it. When we pray to God, we need to have confidence in God. We need to trust that He is not capricious, but constant and true. He isn’t like the contrived deities of the Greeks and Romans–whimsical, selfish and deceitful. God–the one true God–says what He means and means what He says. He isn’t going to listen to our prayer one day and sleep through it the next. He is ever-present. He draws near to those who draw near to Him.

Last week, I tasked you with making a list of things to be thankful for from the song, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” I made my own list and I will be covering each part of it in the coming weeks. For the present, let’s focus on the most obvious: God is faithful.

faithful

When I look at the above definition, I see God. God doesn’t just act faithful. It is who and what He is. He is the embodiment of faithfulness. The scriptures overflow with examples of God’s faithfulness. The more you read the Word, the more this truth will become evident to you.

We have all experienced some form of betrayal in life. If you’ve ever been cheated on in a relationship; if you’ve ever had a good friend walk away from you or stab you in the back; if you’ve been lied to, attacked, abused or simply watched as someone morphed from good to bad before your eyes; you know that people are not constant. It is heartbreaking.

I have some good news, however:

God does not change. Ever.

Not yesterday. Not today. Not tomorrow.

The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament.

We ought to count His unchanging nature as a priceless treasure. (Give praise to Him for being faithful in your prayers this week).

In the above definition, the second part says that one who is faithful is true to one’s word, promises, vows, etc. The Word overflows with testimony of God making and keeping His promises.

Two immediate examples that come to mind are promises God made in the time of Noah and Abraham.

NOAH
After the worldwide flood in Genesis chapters 6-9, God made a covenant with Noah, his descendants (that includes us), and every living thing on the earth. Here is the specific text of the promise:

“Thus I establish my covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth… This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set my rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.”

Genesis 9:11-13 (NKJV)

The word “covenant” is legal-speak for a formal agreement between two parties to do or not to do a particular thing. God often made covenants with people. It’s His way of making sure that the terms of the agreement are understood and showing us that it is important to Him.

While there have been floods since the time of Noah, they are not breeches of contract; God specifically said that all flesh would never again be cut off by the flood, nor would the earth be destroyed by flood. No flood since the time of Noah has been so severe as to destroy all life. God has kept this promise for over 4,000 years. Whenever you see a rainbow in the sky, remember God’s faithfulness to His word.

Rainbow = 4,000 year-old promise

Note: In the hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness,” there is a stanza that says, “Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above; join with all nature in manifold witness to Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love. The rainbow is part of nature and is one more witness to the faithfulness of our God.

ABRAHAM
Abraham is often the first person thought of when it comes to covenants and promises, because the promises made to Abraham are repeated throughout the Bible. In Genesis 12 and Genesis 15, God made told Abraham that he would have a son, that his descendants would inherit the land of Canaan and that through him all people of the earth would be blessed.

Twenty-five years after God made this promise to Abraham, he fulfilled the first portion of it with the birth of Isaac. Abraham was 75 when the promise was made and 100 years old when Isaac was born (Gen. 21.5).

The Israelites (Abraham’s descendants) inherited the land in spite of their rebellion and complaining (read Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy for a full account of their misdeeds). God made sure that the guilty were dealt with. The ones that refused to obey died in the wilderness and their children went on to inherit the land. God fulfilled His promise to Abraham even when the people who were supposed to enter the land turned their back in fear. Nothing gets in the way of God’s promises.

The most precious promise God gave to Abraham was that through him (that is, Abraham), all peoples of the earth would be blessed. Jesus was born to Mary, who was descended from the line of Abraham. Through Jesus, we have access to eternal life if we choose to obey Him. Jesus came thousands of years after Abraham. Jesus has blessed thousands of generations and continues to do so. No matter how much time elapses, God will keep His promises.

We are surrounded with evidence of God’s faithfulness. What I’ve written here barely scratches the surface. From the constancy of the seasons to the examples in the Word, we see God’s character. He is true, faithful and just.

People grow old. Memories fade. Hearts grow bitter. Children lose innocence. Human love waxes and wanes. Green forests burn to black. Lakes dry up. Cities crumble. Governments grow corrupt. Life is full of change. Benjamin Franklin said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” I disagree. God is far more certain than either. While it is true we will all die, we don’t know how or when. Taxes depend on what rule your under and many men have figured out how to evade them. God is truly the most constant factor in our lives.

Give thanks to God that He is a faithful friend. He will never fail you. If you think He has failed you, start digging in the Word with a backhoe instead of a garden spade. God never fails. He always has a plan, even if it is not obvious to you at the present moment. Do not lose heart. Pray with confidence, knowing that you are talking to a faithful Father and He will fulfill His good purpose for you.

I leave you with this quote from Hebrews:

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

~ Hebrew’s 4.14-16

 

Forgiveness [Prayer part 5]

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Over the past 4 weeks we have been looking at different aspects of prayer and I hope that these posts have been helping to enhance your prayers to God and your relationship with Him.

We have looked at:

Making time for prayer
Reverence to God
Praying for God’s will to be done
Giving Thanks in prayer

Keep on working on these things. It helps to have lists. Some people worry that if they have a list that their prayer will not be from the heart. On the contrary, taking time to write things down will make it easier to remember the important things that you want to share with God. We can pray effectively without lists, but if you feel your prayers are disjointed or you are having difficulty focusing, it can be an excellent tool.

Let’s move on to the next aspect of prayer: Forgiveness

Forgiveness is one of those words that we use so often in Christianity that the meaning gets lost in the repetition. We need to take time to think about what it truly means because it is a crucial part of our relationship with God and our fellow man.

When Jesus lived on the earth as a man, one of the teachers of the law approached Him and asked, “Teacher, what is the greatest commandment?” to which Jesus replied, “To love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. And the second is like it, to love your neighbor as yourself.”

God’s forgiveness is an expression of love and mercy.

Our forgiveness towards others is our expression of love and mercy.

What does all this have to do with prayer?

Asking God’s forgiveness in our prayers is imperative. When we sin, we may be wronging others, but we are always wronging God. If we love God, then we need to ask His forgiveness when we sin. And, when do we talk to God? In prayer.

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned Jesus’ example prayer and I want to look at it again here. In Matthew 6:12, Jesus says, “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” Some translations say, “sins.” In verses 14-15, Jesus addresses the forgiveness aspect of prayer and does not talk about any other part of His prayer. This indicates that forgiveness is of paramount importance.

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

There are lots of discussions about whether we have to confess every sin in our prayer to God. I don’t want to get deep into that discussion in this post, so I’ll just share what a wise Christian man once told me. He said that when he prayed for forgiveness, he would ask God to forgive his sins of commission (things he did on purpose) and sins of omission (sins he committed without realization). I imagine that the ones that weighed heavily on his heart he went into detail about. I do that when I ask for forgiveness. I don’t make excuses for my behavior; it is simply a request for forgiveness. It is then incumbent upon me to go out and not do it again.

You might be thinking, “I haven’t sinned today. I don’t have anything to be forgiven of.” I can’t speak for you as I don’t know what’s in your heart or mind or what your daily actions involve. I can speak where God has spoken, and I can speak for myself. In 1 John 1, John the apostle wrote, “If we confess our sins, He [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” (1 John 1.9-10)

Ask yourself honestly, “have I sinned at all today?” Most, when thinking of sin, think of “big” sins (I use the term loosely; all sin is alike to God, but some sins have greater shame and greater consequences). Consider, however, that you may be sinning by acting in bitterness towards others. You may be harboring resentment toward another. You might be neglecting doing good for others in favor of doing good for yourself. I am not suggesting that we micro-analyze ourselves, but we need to honestly evaluate our hearts daily and purify our hearts so we can draw near to God. We wash our hands daily so we don’t contaminate ourselves; we need to cleanse our hearts so we don’t contaminate our soul.

There is a second part of Jesus’ statement about forgiveness that I quoted above in Matthew 6.14-15. We must forgive others when they wrong us. It isn’t a suggestion. It is a command. The consequence for not forgiving others is that we will not receive forgiveness from God. We need God’s forgiveness. We want God’s forgiveness. Not everything in scripture is as black and white as those two verses. Take it to heart and practice it.

Love keeps no record of wrongs. You may “say” you’ve forgiven someone and yet you have a list in the back of your mind of all the times that they’ve wronged you, and when that person finally lays down the last straw against you, that pile is going to come crashing down on you both. C.S. Lewis explained this concept best in his essay “On Forgiveness.” He wrote:

“When it comes to the question of our forgiving other people… forgiving does not mean excusing. Many people seem to think it does. They think that if you ask them to forgive someone who has cheated or bullied them, you are trying to make out there was really no cheating or bullying. But if that were so, there would be nothing to forgive. They keep on replying, ‘But I tell you, the man broke a most solemn promise.’ Exactly: that is precisely what you have to forgive. (This doesn’t mean that you must necessarily believe his next promise. It does mean that you must make every effort to kill every taste of resentment in your own heart–every wish to humiliate him or to pay him out.)” [emphasis mine]

We don’t have to be witless wonders. If someone repeatedly lies to you, forgiveness doesn’t mean that you trust their words, it means that you do not harbor resentment. You still treat them with love, but you are wise enough to see that they are not trustworthy. You still pray for them, you still treat them with kindness.

Jesus also told a parable in Matthew 18.21-35. A man forgave his servant a huge debt of 10,000 talents, yet when the servant found another man who owed him money (far less than he himself owed the master), he had him thrown in prison until he could repay it. The master heard about it and rescinded the forgiveness of debt and the man was thrown in prison until he could pay every last cent. The significant point is that the sins people commit against us are small in comparison to what we do and have done to God. Jesus paid the debt for our sins, but if we don’t extend the same compassion, if we don’t love our fellow man (remember, love requires forgiveness!) then we lose our gift: “He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in darkness until now.” 1 John 1.9. Read the whole first chapter of John, what I am saying goes hand in hand with the context of the chapter.

If you are harboring resentment, hatred, or anger you need to work on extending forgiveness. I have been pondering this all week and trying to set right my mind and heart. As I discovered, you can be withholding forgiveness without realizing it. Cleanse your heart; withholding forgiveness is like cancer of the soul. It is a wasting disease.

Lastly, I leave you with two more passages from God’s Word:

“Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, loud quarreling and evil speaking be put away from you with all malice. And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you. Therefore, be imitators of God as dear children.”

~Ephesians 4.31 – 5.1

“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection.

~Colossians 3.12-14

Do not grow weary in doing good my dear friends. May God bless you this week and always.

Great Is Thy Faithfulness

God is faithful

Lamentations.

We don’t often use the term “lament.”

The word is defined as “a passionate expression of grief or sorrow.” Lamentations is a book in the Bible written by the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah suffered greatly as a prophet of God due to the wickedness of the Israelites of his day.

They had walked away from God, and God was allowing them to suffer the consequences of their infidelity.

In the midst of his weeping, Jeremiah writes:

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope:

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.

~ Lamentations 3.21-23, NIV

I’d like you to read the entire chapter leading up to this verse. The prophet is talking about his sorrow and bitterness. Then, smack-dab in the middle of the chapter in the middle of the book, he reminds himself (as well as the reader) about God’s Faithfulness. In the middle of your trials, in the middle of your prayers do you find time to offer up praise and thanks?

Lamentations 3 is a rich chapter. Anyone who is dealing with or has dealt with overwhelming sorrow will understand Jeremiah’s writing here. We can pour out our heartache to God, we can mourn for wrongs we have done and wrongs done against us; yet, like Jeremiah, we need to remember to give reverence to God and be thankful for having Him as our Lord and Father. No matter how bad things are we, as children of God, always have something to be thankful for. Always.

God’s faithfulness, constancy and love are things to be thankful for. A beautiful hymn was derived from this passage and has grown to be one of my favorites:

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee,
Thou changest not, Thy compassions they fail not,
As Thou hast been,Thou forever wilt be.

Refrain:
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon, and stars in their courses above;
Join with all nature in manifold witness,
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy, and love.

(Refrain)

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth,
Thine own great presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today, and bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside.

(Refrain)

~ Thomas Chisolm

I want you to think about the passage in Lamentations and the lyrics of the song this week.

Make a list of what we can find to be thankful for even in our darkest hours. (Remember the story I shared with you last week about Betsie Ten Boom being thankful for the fleas.)

I will be doing a series of posts on this in the coming weeks in addition to our discussions on prayer. There is too much to be covered in one post!

What reminds you of God’s faithfulness? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts!

Be strong in the Lord, dear friends.

To read the next post in the series, click here.

Giving Thanks [Prayer Part 4]

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“Continue earnestly in prayer being vigilant in it with thanksgiving.”

~ Colossians 4:2

It may not be November, but I’m going to talk about thanksgiving! (If the first thing you think of is turkey, you’re on the wrong track.)

Before we dive into thanksgiving, I want to review what we’ve been focusing on in our prayers over the past few weeks:

Remember: Prayer is our communication with our Creator. We need to make it a priority in order to have a rich relationship with Him.


Thankfulness is a learned trait. We have to train our hearts to be grateful. When a baby is born, it cries for it’s food and doesn’t stop crying until it’s needs are met. Never once have I heard a newborn actually say ‘thank you.’  They are given everything from their parents. They have to be taught to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ Even adults can be constant complainers and often forget their manners. Do we ever do that when we pray to God?

I’ve been spending the last month or so listening to the book of Numbers (hence all the reference to the Israelites in the wilderness). In my New King James Bible, there is a preface to the book of Numbers written by the translators. It notes that the book of Numbers is also referred to as the Book of Murmurings. It is an appropriate title since the Israelites complain about everything from the food (or lack thereof) to the leadership. When life seemed unfair, they would raise their lamentable cry of, “oh why did we leave Egypt?!?! It was so much better there!”

Ah yes, Egypt. Free fish, an abundance of leeks and onions… and, lest we forget, an oh-so-excruciating bondage, hard labor, threatened children and abuse by the Egyptians. What’s not to love?

I imagine that when they cried out to the Lord during their bondage in Egypt, they failed to give thanks for those delicious leeks, onions and fish. The ingratitude of the Israelites didn’t begin in the wilderness. It began in Egypt. Their cry to God from Egypt was justified. They were oppressed. He heard their prayer and responded in a way that only our God can: 10 catastrophic plagues and an astounding deliverance from one of the most powerful nations of that time. As if that weren’t enough, God parted the Red Sea so they could be delivered from the pursuing Egyptians. Finally, in their wilderness travels, they had food to eat, their shoes never wore out, their feet didn’t swell, and God dwelt continually in their presence (Deuteronomy 8). And yet, in spite of all this, they failed to adequately give thanks to God. (Making a golden calf and praising it for bringing you out of Egypt is not a good way to show gratitude to God.) Ingratitude led to their destruction.

How often, in the midst of our troubles, do we fail to give thanks for what is good? One might say that there is nothing good in their life. I’ve read about some amazing people who endured unspeakable persecution and they use what they experienced to do some astounding things for others. (Read Unbreakable, The Hiding Place, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and other biographies for contemporary examples). I truly believe that it is all a matter of perspective. There might be points in time where life is so dark that it may be very difficult to see anything worth thanking God for, but there is always something. Several years ago, I read The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom. Corrie and her sister Betsie end up in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II because they were caught hiding Jews. In Ravensbruck, they are put in a barracks where they have to live with fleas on top of all the other horrors they endured daily. Corrie is absolutely devastated, but her sister, Betsie had a heart of thanksgiving. Below is an abbreviated excerpt from the book:


Corrie!’ she said excitedly. ‘He’s given us the answer! Before we asked, as He always does! In the Bible this morning. Where was it? Read that part again!’

“I glanced down the long dim aisle to make sure no guard was in sight, then drew the Bible from its pouch. ‘It was in First Thessalonians,’ I said. We were on our third complete reading of the New Testament since leaving Scheveningen.

“In the feeble light I turned the pages. ‘Here it is: “Comfort the frightened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all…'” It seemed written expressly to Ravensbruck.

“‘Go on,’ said Betsie. ‘That wasn’t all.’

“‘Oh yes:’…”Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.'”

“‘That’s it, Corrie! That’s His answer. “Give thanks in all circumstances!” That’s what we can do. We can start right now to thank God for every single thing about this new barracks!’ I stared at her; then around me at the dark, foul-aired room.

“Such as?” I said.

“Such as being assigned here together.”

“I bit my lip. ‘Oh yes, Lord Jesus!’

“Such as what you’re holding in your hands.” I looked down at the Bible.

“Yes! Thank You, dear Lord, that there was no inspection when we entered here! Thank You for all these women, here in this room, who will meet You in these pages.”

“‘Yes,’ said Betsie, ‘Thank You for the very crowding here. Since we’re packed so close, that many more will hear!’ She looked at me expectantly. ‘Corrie!’ she prodded.

“Oh, all right. Thank You for the jammed, crammed, stuffed, packed suffocating crowds.”

“Thank You,” Betsie went on serenely, ‘for the fleas and for—‘

“The fleas!” This was too much. “Betsie, there’s no way even God can make me grateful for a flea.”

“‘Give thanks in all circumstances,’ she quoted. It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’ Fleas are part of this place where God has put us.

And so we stood between tiers of bunks and gave thanks for fleas. But this time I was sure Betsie was wrong.

“One evening I got back to the barracks late from a wood-gathering foray outside the walls. A light snow lay on the ground and it was hard to find the sticks and twigs with which a small stove was kept going in each room. Betsie was waiting for me, as always, so that we could wait through the food line together. Her eyes were twinkling.

“‘You’re looking extraordinarily pleased with yourself,’ I told her.

“‘You know, we’ve never understood why we had so much freedom in the big room,’ she said. ‘Well–I’ve found out.’

“That afternoon, she said, there’d been confusion in her knitting group about sock sizes and they’d asked the supervisor to come and settle it.

“But she wouldn’t. She wouldn’t step through the door and neither would the guards. And you know why?”

“Betsie could not keep the triumph from her voice: ‘Because of the fleas! That’s what she said, “That place is crawling with fleas!'”

“My mind rushed back to our first hour in this place. I remembered Betsie’s bowed head, remembered her thanks to God for creatures I could see no use for.”

(A full excerpt of this can be found here.)


Like Betsie so aptly said, “Give thanks in all circumstances. It doesn’t say, ‘in pleasant circumstances.’” When things are difficult and when things are good, cultivate a heart of thanksgiving. Train your eyes to see God’s triumphs instead of the world’s troubles. Betsie had that thankful heart. She possessed that heart long before the horrors of Ravensbruck. We need to follow her example.

Each day before you pray this week, take a minute to write down at least 5 blessings and then say them in your prayers. Try to come up with 5 different things each day if possible. When you go to God with your sorrows and requests, make sure you take time to say thank you for what He has already accomplished in your life.

Finally, dear friends, commit the following verses to memory as you train your heart:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

~Philippians 4:6 ESV, emphasis mine


“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

~1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV

Your Will Be Done [Prayer: Part 3]

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Good evening! I hope that each of you had a blessed weekend. I was unable to post this sooner due to Wi-Fi connection issues this weekend, but as the saying goes, “better late than never!”

For the last few weeks, I’ve been writing about prayer—the importance of prayer, making time for prayer & showing God reverence in our prayers. You can read the post about reverence in prayer here and the importance of regular communication post here. I want to continue on the topic of prayer. It may seem as though I am overanalyzing the topic a bit, but I know for I sometimes slip into habits or that may not be inline with what is pleasing to God. So, in looking at these different facets of prayer, I am attempting to enhance my daily communication with our Lord, Father and Creator; I hope that these posts are helping you as well.

This week, I want to address an important and complex aspect of prayer: praying for God’s will to be done.

Praying for God’s will to be done is important for 2 reasons: – we show God that we recognize and respect His wisdom and planning – we train ourselves to put everything into His care and keeping.

Praying for God’s will seems complex because we want a specific, step-by-step path for our lives and it is not laid out in black and white from start to finish–it is a mystery that we unfold day by day.

To begin with, what stumps many people is the question, “How can I know God’s will for my life?” We want specific answers to specific questions. We want everything neatly laid out as far as we can see. We seem to think that the unknown makes it impossible to pray for God’s will to be done.

My friends, God leads us through life one step at a time, one day at a time. Only God holds the knowledge of our individual path and how it will intersect with and affect other lives and paths. He is an amazing coordinator, able to bring governments, peoples, and earthly patterns to intersection at the exact moment He desires. He can do it in spite of poor human choices and the evil of mankind. He is amazing.

Consider, if you will, the Israelites during the Exodus. They travelled through the wilderness without GPS, compass or map. They were lead with a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. They didn’t know exactly how long the journey would take nor what obstacles they might encounter along the way. They were cognizant of two things: 1) God was always present 2) They were heading for “the promised land” or “a land flowing with milk and honey.” God’s will for them was obedience, holiness and habitation of the land God had promised to their forefathers. He had beautiful plans for them and their descendants. Unfortunately, they chose to complain, rebel and be consumed by fear. The result of these 3 choices was death in the wilderness. Their children inhabited the land instead. God’s will was still accomplished, but the people who refused to follow the first two parts of God’s will, did not get to the third part of his will–inhabiting the promised land.

Much like the Israelites, we are journeying through this wilderness of life. We don’t know what awaits us over the next hill or even around the next bend. We don’t know if we’ll face cancer or health, war or peace, poverty or riches, persecution or freedom, joy or sorrow. Like the Israelites, we see God making provision for our basic needs: I would assume that most of us reading this blog have food, clothing, shoes and shelter. God dwells with us day and night. Unlike the Israelites we have the Bible. The Bible tells us what God’s will is in a big-picture fashion. I looked for passages that specifically use the phrase “God’s will” and I do believe that the following give a very good summary of God’s will for each of our lives:

  1. Eternal life (salvation) through Christ. John 6.40“And this is the will of Him [God] who sent Me [Jesus], that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise Him up at the last day.” [NKJV, parentheses mine]
  2. Silence the ignorance of the foolish by righteous living. 1 Pet 2.15 – “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” [ESV]
  3. Give thanks, rejoice always & pray without ceasing. 1 Thessalonians 5.16-18 – “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” [NJKV, emphasis mine]
  4. That all should come to repentance. 2 Peter 3.9“The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long-suffering toward us, not willing that anyone should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” [NKJV]
  5. Sanctification (Being holy, pure. Set apart from the world. Not consumed by worldly passions and lusts) 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8 – For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality… For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness.” [NKJV, read all verses in the bible for full context]

Note: I would strongly encourage you to read the surrounding context of each verse as it gives more depth to what is shown here. I am aiming for brevity, but I always believe that one should read surrounding context to ensure that a passage is not being misused.

I’m going to risk being long-winded to add two more things:

Praying for God’s will to be done is given to us by example. Jesus, in his example prayer in Matthew 6 prayed, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” [Matthew 6.10] It is not the only example we have of Jesus praying for God’s will to be done. In the garden of Gesthemane, before He was arrested, Jesus prayed that God would allow the cup of suffering to pass from Him; and yet, even as he laid out His sorrow before His Father, His very next utterance was, “nevertheless, not as I will, but Your will be done.” [Matthew 26.39] The second time he prayed, he said “If this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” [Matthew 26.42] The text goes on to say that he prayed a third time using these same words. If Jesus prayed for God’s will to be done, we ought to be praying and seeking the same thing, don’t you think?

Do not be discouraged if you don’t know God’s specific plan for your life at this moment in time. I am fairly confident that Joseph had no idea that his excellent management skills and integrity would make him second in command to the most powerful ruler of his day. It took about 20 years from the time God gave him a dream about his brothers bowing before Him to the time He stood before Pharaoh. (He probably wondered how God’s will could be fulfilled while he sat in a pit, or when he was being hauled off by slave traders or while he was in a jail cell taking care of prisoners. It’s pure speculation on my part, but I would guess that he felt a little bewildered at times). Sarah never intended to remain barren until she was old. She bore the shame of childlessness (for in her day, it was a shame for a woman not to bear children) for decades in order that God’s miraculous promise could be fulfilled through Isaac. Ruth never knew that by caring for her mother-in-law she would be part of the lineage of Christ.

My point is that our daily struggles may mask the big picture; we are often unaware of how diligence in our appointed tasks will lead to good for someone else. Wiping runny noses, teaching delinquint kids, caring for the elderly, going to a difficult job everyday just to make ends meet–whatever struggle you are pressing through, pray for God’s will to be fulfilled through it. Trust that God can work all things to His good purpose (see numbered list above). His good purpose may not include riches and honor or glory on this earth. Keep an eternal perspective in spite of the mundaneness of life. Pray that he will use the blessings and trials of your life to carry out His good purpose. We may not see it until we are on the other side with Christ, but if we remain faithful to the end, God will reveal to us His beautiful handiwork.

So, in addition to regular prayer and reverence to God in your prayers, work on praying for “God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.” It doesn’t have to be that specific line, but strive to pray for God’s will. If you are doing a prayer journal, write down that numbered list above and pray that those things be fulfilled in your life. Pray for those you love to have those things fulfilled to God’s good purpose as well.

In our next post, we’ll talk about giving thanks in our prayers.

Stay strong in the Lord my friends!