Opening the Gift of Prayer


“. . . your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”     Matthew 6:10

We often approach God in prayer like He’s a magic genie in a lamp. If we speak our request and rub Him right, we’ll soon have what we asked!

Unfortunately, the results often disappoint us. We earnestly go before the throne to tell God what we need from Him, and His silence leaves us doubting the power of this God who apparently has better things to do than answer.

Can you relate? Do you faithfully bring your requests before God in anticipation of His desire to help you? Do you find that He regularly answers you in tangible ways? Or have you found yourself frustrated and doubting whether prayer has any real power at all?

Dear one, our Creator God invites us to touch the realms of heaven with our needs and requests, and He delights in revealing Himself through His answers!

Scripture is full of promises regarding prayer, but many times we struggle due to our interpretation of them. One of those promises is found in Matthew 21:22:

Jesus said, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

We often interpret this verse to say that if we can just muster up enough faith, God will give us whatever we ask for. Then when we don’t see the answer we prayed for, we assume our faith must not have been strong enough. Yet Jesus taught that we only need faith as small as a mustard seed to move a mountain! (Matthew 17:20)

Jesus offers this teaching about prayer in John 16:24:

Jesus said, “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”

Here Scripture teaches that we will receive from God when we ask in the name of Jesus. Great! In answer to this, we decide that we will simply end all of our prayers with the words, “In Jesus name, Amen.” That should get God moving.

Dear one, seeing God answer our prayers isn’t the result of having the right formula or the right amount of faith. It comes from having a right heart.

Let’s review our opening verse for today. In Jesus’ model for prayer, before He ever asked God to meet a single need, He prayed, “. . . your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).  

My friend, prayer is not about making God bring about our will on this earth. Prayer is the conduit that releases God’s will upon the earth. Our prayers, when uttered in compliance with His perfect purpose, dispense the blessing and power of God into the lives of individuals.

Consider 1 John 5:14:

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”

When we utter prayers that are aligned with His perfect will, Scripture promises that God hears us. Even more beautiful is the promise found in verse 15.

“And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”

The key to unlocking the mystery of powerful prayer is to align ourselves with God’s will. Instead of insisting on telling God how He should answer our need, we must approach Him with a humble heart that’s willing to move where He leads.

Yes, God invites us to ask big things of Him. He loves when we offer specific needs and ask Him to reveal Himself by meeting them. But we must remember that God’s desire isn’t just to make us happy. He desires to provide His very best for us.

Let’s release the genie from the lamp and let God be God. Let’s give Him permission to answer our prayers in the way that He chooses, even if it might be different from what we think we need. As we approach Him in faith, believing that God is able to meet our need, can we also open our hearts to trust Him for His answer?

You needn’t fear His will for you.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Let’s boldly approach the throne to ask big things of God. But as we do, let’s leave our hearts open to receive His will for us instead. After all, it may just be better.

One Body, One Temple


“Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price.”

1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Last week we witnessed Jesus’ zealous guardianship of His Father’s house. At the core of Jesus’ outburst ran His desire to see the temple become a “house of prayer” (Mark 11:17). Now that Jesus has completed His work on the cross and conquered the grave, God’s residence on earth has changed. He no longer dwells behind curtains or walls of stone. He lives within the hearts of His people.

Consider Paul’s depiction of the current church found in Ephesians 2:20-22. He describes membership into God’s household,

“. . . built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

When we contemplate the house of God, we often think of the many churches dotting the landscape of our cities and towns. In our mind’s eye, God’s house can take many shapes and forms, ranging from pristine, white buildings whose tall steeples sparkle in the sunlight to small meeting rooms in schools, theaters or restaurants that house a gathering of believers.

The truth is, God’s Word teaches that there is only one church. It finds its foundations in Jesus Christ, and is made up of those who have put their faith in Him. That church is described above in Ephesians 2:20-22. Jesus Himself was the first stone laid by God to set the foundation, and only in Him will the building join together and rise to become a holy temple. Do you see where you fit into the picture?

“And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” Ephesians 2:22

You, dear one, have become a part of the temple that houses the living God. So is every other person who has placed their trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Although God views each one of us as uniquely special, only in unity is God’s house made complete. Notice from our text in Ephesians that the building will rise to become God’s holy temple as it is joined together in Him (verse 21).

We will miss the glory of God’s house if we don’t gaze upon it as He does: one beautiful, glorious whole. And that whole, as Jesus taught in Mark 11:17, will be called a house of prayer.

Consider Jesus’ words to His disciples in Matthew 6:9,

“This, then, is how you should pray:

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. . .’”

The very first word Jesus uttered in prayer as He taught His disciples to pray was “our”. Think about that for a minute. The entire Lord’s Prayer, our model given by Jesus Himself to teach us how to petition God for His aid, is spoken in the first person plural. Our Father… Give us today our daily bread. . . Forgive us our debts . . . lead us not into temptation . . . deliver us from the evil one.”

What a wonderful place for us to start as we ask God to teach us to pray. Jesus demonstrates through His words the posture we must have before God in prayer. We must share His zeal for His house, and pray with a heart of unity for His body.

Yes, God desires that we bring our personal petitions before Him, but He delights in answering the prayers of those who approach Him with a humble heart. As we become intercessors who seek to align our prayers with His perfect purpose, He begins to circumcise our hearts so that we take on the characteristics of His own. As we do, we unite our hearts with others who also seek His Kingdom, and our prayers echoing around the world will rise as a fragrant offering before the throne.

Only God's own Spirit can produce that kind of unity, and in the presence of His Spirit, we discover His power!

A House of Prayer


“. . . for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.” Isaiah 56:7

What comes to mind when you think of God’s house? As you allow your mind to conjure images of His church, what is it that you see?

God said that His house would be called a house of prayer. I don’t know about you, but when I think of church, prayer isn’t the first thing that comes to my mind. Worship springs to the top of the list, followed by preaching. Prayer is certainly up there, but I don’t think of it as the focal point. Often prayer is even used as the transition to move the service along. Was that God’s intention for His house of prayer?

Rarely in Scripture do we witness Jesus displaying qualities that contrast His gentle humility, but one particular instance displays another very important aspect of His character. This scene is described in all four gospels; John alone reveals the disciples’ revelation in response to what they saw, “His disciples remembered that it is written: ‘Zeal for your house will consume me’” (John 2:17).

How did Jesus express this zeal?

 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written:

“‘My house will be called 
   a house of prayer for all nations’?

But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”

Mark 11:15-17

Jesus is zealous for His Father’s house. His zeal so consumed Him, that He overturned the tables and benches of those displaying their wares in the temple. As He did, He reminded them of what God’s house was designed to be: a house of prayer.

Beloved, what does Jesus see when He enters the doors of our churches? Are we using the areas within the walls of God’s house as a showplace for our talents? Do we offer gifted oratory and entertaining music, hoping to catch the attention of those passing by?

Or, would Jesus’ Spirit rejoice over the prayer taking place among the people, a fragrant offering rising to the throne room of the Lord our God?

“.  . . the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” Revelation 5:8

Jesus said His house would be called a house of prayer. People would refer to it that way; prayer is what His house would be known for. Dear one, the glory of the church will only be revealed as God’s people learn to pray. Would you join me before the throne to petition the re-establishment of the house of prayer?

We will spend the next several weeks asking our Lord Jesus the same request uttered centuries ago by the lips of one of His first disciples, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). As we deepen our understanding of prayer’s role within the church and in the life of the believer, may the gates of heaven open in response to the rise of the house of prayer.

“Now I am about to build a temple for the Name of the LORD my God and to dedicate it to him for burning fragrant incense before him . . .”

2 Chronicles 2:4

I am who I am


“. . . I AM WHO I AM . . .

“. . . This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.” Exodus 3:14,15

Have you experienced I AM? Have you encountered the God who IS?

One of my favorite biblical stories of the revelation of I AM is found in John 18:3-6. On the night that Jesus was arrested, Judas led a group of soldiers to find Jesus in an olive grove.

So Judas came into the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.

Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it that you want?”

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

Picture the scene. An angry mob comes to arrest Jesus carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. Against Jesus’ small group of twelve men, they clearly had the upper hand. Yet the moment Jesus identifies Himself, proclaiming, “I AM he,” instead of advancing on Him, they drew back and collapsed.

Can you imagine the fear and confusion that must have gripped them? Jesus pronounced Himself by the name their God was to be known by for generations, and as they heard Him utter the words, they involuntarily fell to the ground!

I can relate to their compulsory response. I have a similar experience every time I encounter I AM. It occurs each time God speaks His will to me and I follow Him in faith—full of doubt in myself, yet choosing to trust the God who IS. And He reminds me, “Your story is not about who you are; it has EVERYTHING to do with who I AM.”

Several years ago, I began to awaken early each morning with a sermon forming in my mind about Hagar and Ishmael, a mother and son whose story is found in the Old Testament. I saw myself standing at the pulpit in my church, and God began to lay out this teaching in my mind. I didn’t say anything to anyone and didn’t write anything down. I just kept waking up with this message building in my head, point by point.

I knew God had called me to teach, but I’d only ever taught women and never such a large group—and my pastors do quite well at giving the sermons! I waited on God to reveal Himself.

One morning I received a phone call from the head of our women’s ministry. She said our senior pastor had contacted her regarding Mother’s Day Sunday. The Lord had lain on his heart to have a woman give the message that Sunday morning, something they had never done before. As they were talking, their thoughts went immediately to me.

I hung up the phone and collapsed to my knees, sobbing in my bedroom. My God had been faithfully giving me the message I was to share before I was ever asked! I guess He wanted me to know it was Him so I would have no excuse to back out—unless I wanted to choose direct defiance to His will. A few months later, I gave that message in all 3 services in my church, reaching over 1000 people that day.

I returned home that Sunday afternoon after pouring out the message God had given me and retreated to my room. I found myself right back where I began with Him—on my knees, weeping, overwhelmed by how He had revealed Himself and gotten me through. In the years that have followed, as I have trusted Him to be who He IS, we’ve met there many times. He has proven to me over and over,

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

Beloved, I AM has a plan for you. If you will trust Him to be who He IS, you will see Him reveal Himself gloriously in your life. And as He does, you will likely fall to your knees in worship. Relish the moment, dear one. You’re in good company.