April 5, 2014

Three problems, three answers

Three issues tend to meddle with my prayer life. One of them is not knowing how to pray other than the obvious needs I see around me. God’s answer to this is to use the prayers in Scripture. Here are two examples . . .

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak. Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (Colossians 4:2–6)

Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ Jesus, greets you, always struggling on your behalf in his prayers, that you may stand mature and fully assured in all the will of God. (Colossians 4:12)

These verses tell me to keep at it, be thankful, pray for other Christians that they will boldly and clearly share the Gospel in gracious and wise speech, and that each one will rely on Christ (maturity) and know the will of God as they serve Him. God’s Word tells me how to pray.

Another problem is becoming overwhelmed with the problems of life. I might feel alone in my struggles, unable to talk to God about them. The Bible is filled with examples. For instance, as Ahab and Jezebel sought to destroy the prophet Elijah, instead of seeking support from others, he fled into the wilderness and was by himself in a cave. There, “He wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And behold, there came a voice to him and said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He said, ‘I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.’” (1 Kings 19:13–14)

I can do that – run off into hiding when I feel threatened. Thankfully, God does meet me in my fears. He did the same for the Israelites when they ran away for a different reason than did Elijah. As they were escaping the bondage in Egypt, life became tough and they began to complain rather than pray. This sounds so familiar!

They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.” And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” The Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward. Lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the people of Israel may go through the sea on dry ground. (Exodus 14:11–16)

God rescued them after Moses cried out to Him. I know the feeling of being alone and unable to call out to God for myself. His answer is to seek the prayer support of others. I am not alone.

Another problem is feeling so overwhelmed by my failures that prayer seems impossible. This happened when the people of God went back to their land after being in exile. They heard the Word of God and were weeping because of how long they had been in disobedience . . .

And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the Lord your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” So the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be quiet, for this day is holy; do not be grieved.” And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them. (Nehemiah 8:9–12)

God used their leaders to remind them that God had brought them back. They were in a holy place and He was feeding them in more ways than one. His answer to their need, and mine, is to hear not only the conviction of His Word, but also its comfort. Be in Bible study with others. Attend church. Do not weep alone.

Lord, I’m grateful that You understand the human heart and that You provide what we need to keep us strong and supported in prayer as well as convicted and comforted. Thank You for feeding me. 

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