Overflowing with Thankfulness


“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6

Difficulties have a way of swallowing us whole. They start consuming us bit by bit, and before we know it, we’re all in, struggling to come up for air. It’s in those moments that we tend to call on God.

Have you been there? Consumed by your circumstance, unsure of how you’ll ever get out of this one? You cry for help, desperation sending you to your knees. God is your last resort. Anxiety rules your heart instead of peace. Overwhelmed by your need, you can find nothing to be grateful for.

And that, dear one, fuels the problem. Gratitude holds the key to your release.

Look back at our opening Scripture. In Philippians 4:6, Paul calls us to pray—for everything. But he doesn’t just tell us to present our requests to God. He instructs us to do it “with thanksgiving.”

What does thanksgiving have to do with the power of our prayers? Thanksgiving recognizes the goodness of God, increasing your awareness of what God has already done for you. As you remind yourself of God’s faithfulness, your faith for your current circumstance will increase.

Repeatedly throughout Scripture, the Israelites were commanded to remember what God had already done for them. They would draw on the faith that remembering would produce to believe for their present situation.

  • When facing battle to secure the land God had ordained for them, God instructed: “But do not be afraid of them; remember well what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt.” Deuteronomy 7:18
  • Again, in 1 Chronicles 16:11-12, the people were instructed to Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he pronounced.”
  • And in Psalm 42:6 David writes, “My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.”

Even David, the King after God’s own heart, struggled with a downcast soul. And He knew there was one way out—remembering what God had already done. No wonder Scripture teaches we should be “overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:7).

When we offer gratitude to the Lord in the midst of our need, we change our focus. Instead of our thoughts resting on our need or negative circumstance, our thoughts now dwell on the goodness of God. And when your thoughts dwell on Him, you open yourself to hear from Him. Beloved, God can only lead you to victory when you’re listening.

Gratitude changes your perspective. Your gaze shifts from the enormity of your problem to your much greater God. From that view, your problem appears smaller. God gets bigger, and your heart begins to change.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus”. Philippians 4:7

Peace comes with God’s presence. So does God’s power. Run to Him with your burden, and allow the Spirit to shift your thoughts away from your struggle. Release it to the Lord, and offer God gratitude for His faithfulness. Then expect to see Him move.

“Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2

Sounds like advice worth following. 


Free to Receive

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matthew 6:12

You deserve to be angry. It wasn’t fair, and it certainly wasn’t right. God would see it your way. He’d agree. It shouldn’t have happened to you. No, there’s no way you can let this one go.

I imagine those thoughts are familiar to you. I’ve had them. I’m sure you have too. Hurts, betrayals, and unfair treatment send us reeling. At our core, we want someone to pay. We need someone to pay . . . or at the very least, be sorry.

We often wear our need for others to repent and make things right like chains. We carry our resentment with us. It hangs on us, clinging to us like a net, and everything we do and say must get filtered through its tangled layers. Even the prayers we lift to the Father.

We’ve spent the last few weeks considering prayer together, exploring its purpose and looking at how we can pray with a power that opens the heavens. Today, we take a peek at a destructive force that hinders them.

As Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He included Matthew 6:12 in His model:

“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”

If you’re like me, perhaps the verse is so familiar to you that you may have missed its significance. Have you ever really thought about what Jesus is saying with those words? His plea for God’s forgiveness is attached to a clause, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Jesus asked God to forgive us in the same way that we have forgiven others who have hurt us.

Think about that for a minute. If we seek God’s forgiveness in the same way that we forgive others, what will happen when we refuse to forgive and harbor bitterness and resentment in our hearts? I’ll let Jesus answer that for you.

"For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

Matthew 6:14-15

Dear one, there isn’t anything we need in this life more than God’s forgiveness. Forgiveness secures our release from sin and opens our access to have intimate relationship with our heavenly Father. We receive God’s forgiveness the moment we repent of our sin and put our faith in His Son, Jesus. Praise His Name, Jesus took all of our sin upon Himself so we could be free!

And yet, we still sin. Here’s the good news: we can never sin our way out of our salvation. But sin that we carry with us and refuse to repent of will hinder our relationship with God, removing us from His favor and blessing. In fact, harboring sin in our hearts causes God’s ear to close to the prayers we lift in our need.

“Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.” Isaiah 59:1-2

Verse one assures us that God is mighty and able to rescue us! He is also able to hear us when we cry out to Him in our need. Our sins, however, separate us from the intimacy we should enjoy with God and turn His ear away from us. If we want God to hear and answer our prayers, we need an open channel. Sincerely confessing our sin ushers in God’s forgiveness. With forgiveness comes His power. Consider 1 John 1:9.

“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.for”

Praise Jesus, God is faithful to forgive! The question before us is this:  Are we?

When we refuse to forgive, we sin against God. We tell Him we don’t trust Him as the Righteous Judge and we’ve decided we should handle it. Our stubborn refusal to release the wrongs done to us pushes God away and invites the enemy of our souls to wreak a little havoc. Not only will harboring bitterness keep God at a distance, but it will keep you bound in your own chains. You will be forgiven as you also forgive.

Has resentment left its chains on you? Ask God to work forgiveness in your heart. It doesn’t let anyone else off the hook. Just you. And as you forgive, you allow God’s forgiveness to penetrate your own soul, releasing you of burdens you weren’t designed to carry. That freedom will leave the channel between you and God open, creating an unobstructed doorway for your prayers to not only rise to His throne, but for His answers to come down.

Forgive, dear one, and be free to receive.

The Beauty of Intercession


“. . . He is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” Hebrews 7:25

Jesus lives. What a profoundly glorious thought! Our Lord and King did not remain in the grave He visited for us. Instead, He rose, conquering its power and making His victory available to us. One of the ways we access that victory is through prayer, petitioning Jesus to help us in our need. And now, Scripture promises that He is able to save us completely, because He lives to intercede for us.

Have you let that thought settle on you? Jesus’ current, active role is to intercede . . . for you. Romans 8:34 agrees that Jesus, “is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” What does that mean? Dictionary.com defines intercede this way: “to act or interpose in behalf of someone in difficulty or trouble, as by pleading or petition.” Jesus acts on your behalf by what He speaks.

Do you face difficulty, dear one? Is trouble crushing you under the burden of its weight? Consider Jesus’ promise to you in John 16:33:

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Trouble finds all of us. Because sin exists in this world, it’s impossible for us to live out our days without experiencing difficulty. And the reality is, when trouble hits us, it often defeats us. It robs our hope. It breeds fear and anxiety. It causes us to run. But not Jesus.

Jesus doesn’t waver in the presence of trouble. No. In the presence of Jesus, trouble must bow its knee.

Do you believe that Jesus has conquered even your difficulty? Be encouraged and take heart. Why? Because Jesus has overcome! And now, according to Hebrews 7:25, Jesus lives to intercede on your behalf. What’s more, as your intercessor, He is able to save completely!

So, how does the Overcomer intercede for us in our circumstances? Through prayer!

Last week we learned that prayer is the conduit that releases God’s blessing and power into our lives. Although we often use it as the means to try to get God to do what we want, God actually moves in answer to prayers that align with His plans and purpose. For us to release His power into our circumstance, we must pray according to His will (Matthew 6:10, 1 John 5:14-15).

How can we know how to pray in line with God’s desires? We allow our intercessor—the One who knows exactly what we need and who provides the power to overcome—to lead us in prayer.

Jesus has given us a tremendous gift to help us in our need. While He intercedes at God’s right hand, the Spirit He sent us is hard at work within us. Celebrate the promise of Romans 8:26-27.

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”

So often when circumstances and pain overwhelm us, we don’t even know how to pray. In those moments of weakness, God’s precious Spirit within us cries out on our behalf in compliance with God’s will. And when we ask anything according to God’s will, He hears, and “we know that we have what we’ve asked of Him” (1 John 5:14-15).

One of the primary roles of the Holy Spirit is to lead us to pray according to God’s will, but He Himself is led by another source. Consider Jesus’ words surrounding the sending of the Holy Spirit:

“But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.” John 16:13-14

Do you see it, dear one? Jesus sits at the right hand of God so that He can intercede on our behalf. As God speaks His will to His Son, the Son reveals the Father’s will to the Spirit. The Spirit then brings glory to Jesus by, “taking from what is [His] and making it known to you.”

The most important thing we can do in prayer is to quiet ourselves before the Lord. We spend so much time telling God what we need, but we rarely stop to listen. Listening, beloved, is where prayer’s power is found. Allow Jesus to whisper the Father’s will into your heart through the Spirit. As you partake in the mind of Christ and follow His leading to pray His own words back to Him, the gates of heaven will open in answer to the speaking of God’s will. That, dear one, is how we pray “in Jesus’ Name.”  

“so is my word that goes out from my mouth: 
   It will not return to me empty, 
but will accomplish what I desire 
   and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

Isaiah 55:11

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