As new year pokes it’s head up from the eastern horizon, my fresh calendar’s blank pages carry a deep promise of new hope. Today, in the middle of a Michigan winter, the sky is blue and the temperature is soaring to 55 degrees. A new president has been sworn in. Christians and even some political voices prognosticate good things. Rising tides lift all the ships in the harbor.
When I look toward heaven, I know God has good things in store us too. Television preachers try to convince me that this season is special, different somehow. I’m told that in these exceptional times, God wants to do extraordinary things, and after their encouragement, I’m told that I can get in on the special goodies if I contribute to their ministry, and buy their latest book. Ouch . . . something is wrong with THAT picture.
I’ve learned that we are partners with God in his work.First God wants to work IN me so that later he can work THROUGH me. Click To Tweet
God’s work in me requires my participation.
I’m not talking about earning God’s love or working for my salvation. Both are free and totally undeserved gifts. I am talking about working out my salvation in fear and trembling, and putting my life into a place where God can work through my life to bless others and glorify Himself.
For the next couple months, I’m going to write about one of the spiritual disciplines that is essential if you and I want to see God’s power and purpose in our lives. Called a Christian’s Vital Breath by author L. A. T. Van Dooren, prayer is a starting point that brings God’s power into our lives. Prayer initiates the transformation God requires. Prayer opens the door to heaven, and makes the place in our hearts larger and s more fit inhabitation for God’s Spirit. Here are some of the points I’ll land on as we unpack the power, purpose and conditions for a powerful prayer life.
- What prayer is, and what it isn’t.
- Conditions for and obstacles to effective prayer.
- Obstacles to prayerful intimacy in our hearts.
- Obstacles to prayer from the outside world.
- The power of the Holy Spirit in prayer.
- The power of praying scriptures back to God.
- Demanding God do things for us, as our right?
- Scripture as praise and promise.
- When God speaks, and how He will answer.
- Fasting and the three stranded cord.
- The power, purpose and planning your fast.
Finally, I’ll wrap things up with a model you can use to build the daily discipline of 30 minutes of prayer over the 40 days leading into Easter.
I’ve heard well-meaning preachers lower the bar as a way to encourage recalcitrant Christians to pray. “Take a few minutes over your cereal every morning, of use your morning drive time to talk to God. It doesn’t matter, just do something,” goes the challenge. If prayer is intimacy with God, I don’t know how well these shallow efforts will work to open wide the doors between us and our Father. Again, I’m not talking about earning God’s love or attention. Yet how would your wife, spouse, kids or boss respond of your attempts at intimate and meaningful communication were limited to five or ten minutes while you navigated rush-hour traffic?
Jesus prayed, and He must have prayed often. His life was powerful and purposeful, filled with the Holy Spirit. We don’t see much evidence of his prayer life in the scriptures, except for this one, oft-overlooked event. The only thing Jesus’ disciples asked him was to teach them to pray. They walked with him for three years, saw Him calm storms, multiply food out of thin air and raise the dead . . . and the only thing they asked Him to teach them was to teach them to pray like He prayed. (Luke 11:1)
Prayer is powerful, and the men and women God has used through the ages have been men and women of prayer. Do you want God’s best in your life? Do you want to see God work in your family, friends, church? I hope you will come back, and join me as I give you some tools, and we learn to practice the discipline of prayer.