Don’t Pray Often, Pray Always

Sail Boat

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray….Luke 18:1 NLT

As Sunday’s lesson talks about abiding in Christ, I have found for myself that praying often is not the answer. I must pray always.

I used to have a golf cart relationships with Jesus. Golf carts charge their batteries early in the morning and then disconnect from their source of power and run all over the golf course on their own power the rest of the day. So I would get up early, pray and read several chapters in the Bible and then (I don’t want to say that I actually disconnected from God), run off to meet the day in the power I had “charged up.”

In later years I realized I am not a golf cart. I am a trolley car. Trolley cars have to stay connected to the cable the entire day. The moment they separate from the cable they can no longer move an inch. That’s me today. I have gone from dedicating my life to Jesus, to dedicating hour by hour to Jesus. For years right before I would preach, I would meet with the elders in a special room to pray and surrender myself to the power of the Holy Spirit for the time I would be preaching. However, I realize I need to surrender myself to the Holy Spirit for the other 167 hours in the week, and do so just as intentionally as I do for the worship hour.

I used to pray before reading my Bible. Now I also pray before reading any book. After all there may be some object lessons in there. If I feel “funny” praying about reading a certain book, then I ask myself if I should be reading it at all. To not pray before reading or doing something because praying during that activity makes me feel uncomfortable, I must ask myself why? If I choose to go ahead and do the activity without praying, then I have just intentionally disconnected myself from Christ! I can’t afford to do that. I am a trolley car and not a golf cart. I have no power on my own. I have learned by experience the truth in the old Hymn, “I Need Thee Every Hour.” After all, I was created to be home for the Holy Spirit. I was created for communion with my Creator. We can talk to God throughout the day. As we lie in bed, dress for work, go about our daily tasks, we can continue our prayer throughout the day. We don’t need to say “amen” as the prayer never has to end.

Although there may be a tainted, corrupted atmosphere around us, we need not breathe its miasma, but may live in the pure air of heaven. We may close every door to impure imaginings and unholy thoughts by lifting the soul into the presence of God through sincere prayer. Those whose hearts are open to receive the support and blessing of God will walk in a holier atmosphere than that of earth and will have constant communion with heaven. -Ellen White, Steps to Christ, Page 99

They key to victory is not to pray often, but to pray always.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

When You Just Need to Talk to Jesus Face to Face

20150730_113027

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

When we go through Job-like experiences and trials, we sometimes wish that Jesus was right here with us, so we could talk to Him face to face instead of just reading the Scriptures. We think Jesus would have something new to say to us outside of Scriptures, that would fit our unique experience. However, let’s see what often happened when people in Scripture talked to Jesus personally.

Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ Matthew 4:3-4 NKJV

The tempter tries to get into a theological debate with Jesus, but instead of thinking up clever, witty comebacks Jesus just quotes what is already written in Scripture. I’m thinking we should do the same. So in this discussion, even though the tempter had a personal conversation with Jesus, nothing was revealed you and I could not already find in Scripture.

And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?Luke 10:25-26 NKJV

Once again Jesus does nothing more than take the lawyer to Scripture. The same Scripture you and I have even though we’ve never had a physical person to Person talk with Jesus, like many wish for.

In Luke 24 Cleopas and his friend are walking towards Emmaus, when they meet Jesus. They don’t realize who He is as they tell Him about their doubts about what happened that crucifixion week. Now here they are talking to Jesus personally, and what does He do? He doesn’t tell them anything other than what was already written in Scripture!

 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. Luke 24:27 NKJV

So here we have three cases of someone getting to actually have a real live physical one on one conversation with Jesus, and each time nothing was revealed but what was already written in the Scriptures. Could it be that everything we need to know about life’s trails is already in the Scriptures? Later Cleopas and his friend said, ““Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:32 Friend, has there not been times when you have read the Scriptures and your heart burned within you as though Jesus was talking personally to you? Its because He was! Someone once said, “I may know a lot of books, but the Bible is the only book that knows me!”

Several years ago my church had an agape communion feast. It was supposed to be a time for personally healing and restoration. The leader assigned us a partner to pray with. My partner refused to pray with me because I had a different opinion about a local issue. I would prefer to not give that member the satisfaction of reading this, and triumphing in that they successfully hurt me, but they did. What God had designed to be a healing time, this member had used to bring me pain. I questioned God as to why He would let this happen? This was a sacred feast and yet someone used it for evil. God did not answer me audibly, but once again He through the Spirit pointed me to Scripture. We were celebrating an agape feast, similar to the Passover super. That night Jesus wanted someone to pray with, but his disciples failed Him. Sure they were not mean spirited like this church member, but still they let Him down, and Jesus had to experience the post agape feast praying alone just like I did! I realized I felt His pain and He felt mine! When I realized Jesus and I had shared a unique situation together,  that brought healing! Through both providence and Scripture Jesus revealed Himself to me.

In chemistry you have a classroom where you learn theory, and a lab where you learn practicum. When we go through trials like Job, we have the Bible to learn theory, but then we have the world as our lab where we put it into practice. Through practice Jesus leads us by His Word and providence. As different lab experiments turn out uniquely so does our providence, but God has given us His Word in the Scriptures to guide us all, even in our unique experiences.

This is why Paul said the Scriptures are profitable for doctrine, but not only for getting our 28 fundamental beliefs. He went on to say for all our instruction in righteousness, as we become just as complete in Him as we are individually unique in Him.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 NKJV

You may study this week’s SS lesson here.

When Prayer Doesn’t Move Mountains

Tulsa By River

I am writing today from beautiful Tulsa Oklahoma.

“For most of us the prayer in Gethsemane is the only model. Removing mountains can wait.” -C.S. Lewis

I was told a couple Fridays ago that my mother, my biggest champion and one of the biggest prayer warriors in my ministry had less than 30 days to live. She had been in poor health for a long while. Actually, in 2004 she was given 2-3 years to live, and here it was 12 years later. My mother, who lived 1,200 miles away was fading in and out of consciousness, mostly out. I had to get out there to see her! Last Sabbath (I am writing this Sabbath June 18, 2016) I was crying and pleading with God to give me at least one more time to tell her that I loved her. Of course I know we will always want one more time. A million emotions and memories were flooding through my soul, as I cried out to God, “One more time God! One more time!” 

That afternoon, after fellowship lunch at church, I took off by myself to one of my mother’s favorite beaches, where she visited me in Florida. While there, my sister called, and told me mother was awake if I wanted to call her. I called her hospital room, and we talked for a few minutes as I stood on mother’s favorite beach, watching the waves she loved so much. I told her I loved her a hundred times. She told me she loved me. I promised I was coming out as soon as I could. She said “I hope so.” The conversation seemed timeless if you know what I mean. It didn’t seem like our last conversation. It seemed like one we would have had during any period of life.

I thank God for that answered prayer, because mom then faded back into unconsciousness, never to return. I flew out to see her, and said goodbye and that I loved her, but she could not respond. I arrived at the hospital Tuesday morning at 2Am. By 6:30AM she was gone. The 30 days were more like just 4.

The Sunday after the Sabbath I talked to mom, right before flying out, I had a real Gethsemane with God. I was crying. No I was wailing! I am sure my neighbors heard. I pleaded with God to save my mother! I did not want to lose her! I told God I believed He could heal her. He can move mountains! But in my Gethsemane, no mountains were moved.

I looked to Jesus in His Gethsemane. No mountains were moved there either. Jesus simply surrendered to His Father’s will. I thought about His mother, later standing at the cross, having to submit her will too. Now remember, Jesus and God the Father were in on the plan of Him being crucified from the very start, but I don’t know that poor Mary was ever given a choice. She was a willing, submissive participant the entire time. I tried to imagine what was going on in her heart and soul during her mother/son separation. Then I realized, as ugly and painful as it was, little did Mary realize at the cross, just how close the resurrection was. Just right around the corner actually!

Life goes by so fast. Things like graduations, weddings, retirement parties, and yes the death of a loved one all come way too soon it seems. We expect these things, we just don’t expect them to come so fast, even though we have been told a thousand times how short life is and how quickly it all goes by.

Even though my mother lived over 80 years, I still can’t believe her life is already over. Yes, we have been promised the second coming of Jesus and the resurrection for years, maybe to the point where we get lulled to sleep by it. But I believe just like every other major event in life, that sneaks up on us, once the second coming and resurrection actually happen, we all, saved and unsaved, will be thinking, “Already?! Wow that was quick!” And of course, after all, didn’t Jesus say,

Surely I am coming quickly. Revelation 22:20

When Jesus comes, mountains will be moved out of their places. For now, I pray the prayer of Gethsemane, “Not my will, Your will be done.” I realize when Mary said goodbye to Jesus she did not realize how close she already was to seeing His resurrection. I am not a date and time setter. I realize I will have to miss my mother more than the three days Mary missed Jesus, but I do know this with all my heart; no matter the pain, no matter the sorrow, no matter the wait, when Jesus comes, we will all sigh with a great joyful, “Wow! Already?!” 

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

Growth Group Lesson Plan #23 – Prayer

DIALOGUE # 23 – PRAYER
by Pr Denis Sand – sanddenis@gmail.com

Objective of today’s dialogue: Remind people that God really and eagerly wants to communicate with us. This means that while we talk, He listens carefully, and also that He definitely talks while we listen reverently.

Additional resources: Read and study the material in the following pages for context and further comprehension.

Welcome (15) – Fellowship
• How do you react when someone asks you relentless for something?
• Who is the friend with whom you could talk for hours?
• Why is it so special to talk to him/her?

Worship (15) – Worship
• Read Psalms 40.1-3
You are my King
• Ask the group if God has answered any of their prayers. Ask people to briefly give thanks to God for the answers to their prayers.
• Pray in groups of three.

Word (30) – Discipleship
• Read Luke 11:1-13
• What is prayer anyway and how does it compares with “repeating” things from memory? Explain Ellen White description of prayer as talking to a friend.
• Why do you think we need to pray?
• In Jesus model prayer he offers two main sections, the first about God (v2) and the second about us (v3). Why do we need to pray for those two subjects?
• Why should we pray when we are in trouble, when things go well, when there is no answer?
• What is Christ trying to teach us about prayer with the parable found in verse 5-8?
• How can we really ask, seek, and knock with prayer? V9
• In what ways does God answer our prayers? Which response is harder, a yes, a no, or wait? Why?
• Share with the group a short testimony of the great blessings of praying. Also on how God has answered your prayers.
• How will you pray from now on?
• What do you think is God trying to tell you tonight?
• Pray together in groups of two.

• To do: Please read out loud as a group, and challenge members to memorize Luke 11.9

Works – Witness (15) – Ministry & Evangelism
• Think of people who need prayer and need to learn to pray.
• Pray for them, and invite them to the group.
• Ask: how do you feel about multiplication? Why do we need to multiply? What could happen if we don’t multiply?
• Review the vision of our Growth Groups!
• Is there any way we can pray for you?

Refreshments– Fellowship
• Find out how people did during the week and encourage them to take their burdens to Christ.

Additional Resources: Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 102-122

When Job Prayed for his Friends

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We give great honor to those who endure under suffering. For instance, you know about Job, a man of great endurance. You can see how the Lord was kind to him at the end, for the Lord is full of tenderness and mercy.James 5:10-11 NLT

You know how you can read the same Bible story a hundred times, and then one day something in that story jumps out at you that you had never seen before? James acknowledges that we all know the story of Job, and how he was faithful in suffering, and in the end God restored to him what he lost. Of course the children could not be replaced, but thank God they too will be restored one day. See 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18. While I knew the story well, it wasn’t till just a few months ago that something jumped out at me.

When Job prayed for his friends, the Lord restored his fortunes. In fact, the Lord gave him twice as much as before!” Job 42:10 NLT

What jumped out at me, was that, all this happened, “When Job prayed for his friends,” who were not exactly the best sources of comfort and encouragement. Still, praying for his friends is what improved Job’s own life.

Ironically Moses, who wrote the book of Job, had his own run in with those who were less than comforting and encouraging. In Numbers 12, Moses’ own sister Miriam rebels against Moses’ leadership instead of encouraging him. She is struck with leprosy and immediately Moses cries,

“O God, I beg you, please heal her!” Numbers 12:13 NLT

God healed her when Moses prayed for her. I wonder if Moses remembered Job’s life turning around for the better when he prayed for his friends, when he prayed for his sister? Either way the outcome is the same. There are wonderful blessings in store for those who pray for others, and especially when we pray for those who have been less than comforting and encouraging to us.

Remember, not only did God turn Job’s life around for the better, but He did it when Job prayed for his friends.

You may study this week’s Sabbath School lesson here.

Pray a New Prayer

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

My parents tell me, when I was two years old, one Sabbath morning the elder kept praying and praying in church, and I got tired of kneeling on my two year old little knees, so I finally stood up on the pew and started shouting, “Amen! Amen! Amen!” Well let me tell you something, I have felt like doing it a few times since then. Even at two years old I must have realized that public prayers are suppose to be brief.

“Our prayers in public should be short…” –Ellen White, Prayer, Page 176

In recent years I have been kneeling in congregational prayer for what felt like an eternity, and have thought to myself during the long drawn out prayer, “Why doesn’t the elder praying just ask the pastor if he can preach sometime. I am sure he would let him, and then that way the elder wouldn’t have to use prayer time to preach a sermon.” 

Jesus mentored His disciples to pray longer prayers in private, Or at least He tried to in Gethsemane the night of His arrest, in Matthew 26:36-46. Jesus led by example, in long personal prayers, even lasting all night (Luke 6:12). He also taught that prayers should be genuine and not rehearsed.

“When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again.” Matthew 6:7 NLT

When we pray we are to talk to God as a friend. I even heard of an elderly Bible Worker, who when driving to Bible Studies, would make sure nothing was in the passenger car seat, because He pictured God sitting there, riding with Him to the Bible study as he prayed and drove. (I hope he kept his eyes opened as he prayed and drove!)

Many times in my Bible studies I ask people to have the opening prayer, and many are shy and say they don’t know how. I never pressure anyone to do anything they don’t feel comfortable doing, but several have been surprised how easy it is when I tell them. One man, who had already heard me pray many times, told me he wanted to pray but did not know what to say. I told him, “Just say “Dear heavenly Father, please send your Holy Spirit to be with us in this Bible study, in Jesus’ name amen.” His eyes opened wide and he smiled when he realized how easy it was.

God wants us to talk to Him as a friend. God also does not wanting us just babbling the same words over and over. He wants to have a real conversation with us. The psalmist talks about singing a new song (Psalms 40:3) and a song is like a prayer as songs and prayers are stories of our experiences. Just as God enjoys new songs He also enjoys new prayers.

While Jesus mentored His disciples to pray in private, He also mentored them to pray in public. He gave them a model prayer, not to be repeated over and over word for word necessarily, but a model for us to use to form our own prayer. God loves creativity. Not every song has to be sung the exact same way and by no means does every prayer have to be prayed the same way. While Jesus prayed long private prayers, notice how short His public prayer is.

Our Father in heaven,may your name be kept holy. Matthew 6:9 NLT

Jesus starts by addressing His Father and setting a tone for reverence and awe. Our prayers may also be prayed with confidence knowing our requests are reaching the throne of the universe.

May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10 NLT

I have a friend who was taught long ago by his parents to always ask people how their day was, and listen to them, before going on about yourself and your day. You may think you had a tough day, but before you dive into your prayer, telling God all about your heartaches, have you ever asked God how His day went? God saw way more heartaches in one day than we will see in a lifetime. We want God’s will to be done and His kingdom to come soon, not just to end our suffering, but to end God’s suffering, as He suffers not just with you and me, but with everyone in the world who suffers.

Give us today the food we need, Matthew 6:11 NLT

When Daniel asked for God to reveal the kings dream to him, Daniel did not save himself only, he saved the lives of all the kings men (Daniel 2:24). InMark 4:39 Jesus calms the storm at the disciples request, but the sea was not only calmed for their tiny boat. Like wise, all the other boats on the water benefited from the calmness. Jesus does not pray for Himself alone to have food. He prays for everyone to have the food they need. There is no selfishness in Jesus’ prayer. There is no selfishness in any genuine prayer.

“and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us.” Matthew 6:12 NLT

Jesus could have prayed, “Father forgive everyone else for their sins, but as you know I have never sinned,” but again there is nor self or pride in Jesus’ prayer.

And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. Matthew 6:13 NLT

Jesus overcame by asking for the Father’s help along with everyone else. We can ask for His help and overcome as well. Jesus ends His prayer the way He began, by exalting the Father, Who gives us the confidence we need in our personal lives and ministry when we worship and follow Him.

You can study this week’s SS lesson here. 

Recipe for Revival Part 2: Prayer

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.  2 Chronicles 7:14

While prayer is not the only ingredient to revival, it is very important.

Prayer is the breath of the soul. It is the secret of spiritual power. No other means of grace can be substituted, and the health of the soul be preserved. Prayer brings the heart into immediate contact with the Well-spring of life, and strengthens the sinew and muscle of the religious experience.  –Ellen White, Heavenly Places, Page 83.

Just as we discussed in part one that binge dieting does not lead to good health, neither does a binge revival lead to good spiritual health. Actually a binge revival is no revival at all.

Binge praying will not lead to revival either. Prayer must be a daily part of our life, If prayer is the breath of the soul, then when we stop praying, the soul stops breathing, and when it stops breathing it dies.

Revival must be a way of life and not something we just experience from time to time. I have heard people refer to camp meetings and other spiritual retreats as an opportunity to get their spiritual batteries charged. Problem is we don’t have any spiritual batteries! Our souls are not batteries.

The other day while I was charging my cell phone, it froze on me. I tried to restart it, but I could not even turn it off. I then did what I have done a few times before and just took the battery out to make it go off. It still did not turn off! I quickly realized why. It was still plugged into the charger and so obviously was still receiving power even without the battery. I then unplugged the charger and restarted my phone.

Charging our spiritual batteries is not the solution. Staying connected to the Charger is. Many people have a golf cart religion. A golf cart charges its batteries in the morning, then runs all over the golf course all day under its own power. That does not work for us. We are not golf carts. We are more like trolley cars. A trolley car has no battery. Neither do we. The trolley must be connected to the cable or it cannot move a single inch. Once the connection is severed to the cable, the trolley stops dead in its tracks. So we must stay connected to Christ throughout the day.

Many people wonder why they try so hard to live like Jesus but keep falling short. One reason could be that they are trying to do it in their own power like a golf cart. Often we focus on the miracles Jesus did in the multitude without focusing on what Jesus first did alone, often for entire nights.

He prayed.

We can’t expect to live the way Jesus lived until we pray the way Jesus prayed.

Like us, Jesus realized He could do nothing in His own humanity without the Father.

Then answered Jesus and said unto them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, ‘The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.’”  John 5:19

And Jesus promises us that if we stay connected to Him as He is connected to the Father, even we can do great works.

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.  John 14:12

Although there may be a tainted, corrupted atmosphere around us, we need not breathe its miasma, but may live in the pure air of heaven. We may close every door to impure imaginings and unholy thoughts by lifting the soul into the presence of God through sincere prayer. Those whose hearts are open to receive the support and blessing of God will walk in a holier atmosphere than that of earth and will have constant communion with heaven.  –Ellen White, Steps to Christ, p. 99 

I want to learn to pray as Jesus prayed, so I may live like Jesus lived. How about you?