All posts by Luella Campbell

PRAYING GOD’S WAY – 7

THANKSGIVING

‭‭1 Corinthians 1:4-7 NLT‬
[4] “I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus. [5] Through him, God has enriched your church in every way—with all of your eloquent words and all of your knowledge. [6] This confirms that what I told you about Christ is true. [7] Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Don’t you love the way Paul begins most of his letters? Despite the errors of doctrine and practice that inevitably creep into a group of new believers, especially those who have come out of paganism, Paul thanks God for them and for the uniqueness of their qualities.

No church life will run smoothly. Inevitably, something will happen to disturb its progress towards maturity. The people in the Corinthian congregation had an array of spiritual gifts, the use of which needed some guidance to maintain order in the church.

Despite some of the problems in the church, Paul was quick to acknowledge the giftedness of the people. He begins his letter with positive affirmation. How better to create the correct atmosphere for his task of rebuking and correcting the misunderstandings that produced unacceptable behaviour? He was much more likely to get their attention by recognising their good points first rather than by diving into a stream of accusations and corrections.

Yes, they did this or that which was contrary to God’s way but…first, the fact that the people displayed many spiritual gifts was confirmation that God had indeed worked by His grace in their hearts. They were equipped to function in a pagan environment with powerful evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in and through them.

Therefore, Paul was confident of their position in Christ. Despite their false thinking leading to sinful behaviour, they belonged to God through Jesus. Paul could help them to return to God’s way by reminding them that they were His possession.

We need to take a leaf out of Paul’s book. Thanksgiving for what is good is always the best way to begin our prayers for others. Unless the person or situation for which we pray has no merits, there will always be something about them for which to thank God. When we find qualities in others we can value and appreciate, we create a loving atmosphere for our prayers that is the springboard for gracious praying.

How often we approach the Father with guns blazing. We have crossed purposes with fellow believers. We use our prayers to get at them instead of praying for mercy, for them and us, in an attitude of humility. We want God to fix them instead of recognising that we also need fixing!

Gratitude for the good in others moves our attention away from ourselves towards the needs of others, not in judgment but in grace.

So, let’s follow Paul’s example by thanking God for the good in others before we focus on what went wrong. Let our thanksgiving temper our attitude and motive for the way we intercede for others. As in our words in human conversation, so in our words in prayer, let our speech be seasoned with salt, that which heals and preserves from putrefaction and decay.

PRAYING GOD’S WAY – 6

FAITH – THE KEY

‭Hebrews 11:1, 6 NLT‬
[1] “Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see….
[6] “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.”

We have already discovered that each person in the Trinity has a part to play in this work of prayer. However, to the place and work of the Godhead in prayer, we must add one more person to the circle and one more ingredient to prayer for prayer to be the most powerful way in which God works to fulfill His purposes in the His kingdom. We are that person and faith is that ingredient!

No human can figure out why God has chosen to work this way. We can only conclude that God is so magnificent in His love and grace that He has chosen both to initiate and to work through our prayers.

How does He initiate prayer? He either sets up situations that need His intervention in individual’s lives….personal needs, family issues, local or national situations, etc., or He reveals His intentions through His promises.

Take, for example, His promise to David.

‭2 Samuel 7:11-12, 16, 18, 25 NLT‬
[11]… “‘Furthermore, the Lord declares that he will make a house for you—a dynasty of kings! [12] For when you die and are buried with your ancestors, I will raise up one of your descendants, your own offspring, and I will make his kingdom strong….
[16] Your house and your kingdom will continue before me for all time, and your throne will be secure forever.’”…
[18] Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and prayed, “Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?…
[25] “And now, O Lord God, I am your servant; do as you have promised concerning me and my family. Confirm it as a promise that will last forever.”

On the basis of God’s promise to David, David said the “Amen!” and God kept His promise despite the unfaithfulness of some of his descendants. God’s promise to David was eventually fulfilled when Jesus was born, son of David, to be the King of Israel forever.

Faith plays a pivotal role in our prayers.

‭Hebrews 11:6 NLT‬
[6] “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.”

Faithless prayer is one of the Bible’s impossibles. Without faith in God and His promises, prayer has no solid foundation. James says that, without faith, we are tossed about like a wave on a stormy sea.

‭James 1:6-8 NLT‬
[6]”But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. [7] Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. [8] Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.”

So, what is faith?

‭Hebrews 11:1 NLT‬
[1]”Faith shows the reality of what we hope for; it is the evidence of things we cannot see.”

The Bible’s definition of faith is not easy to understand. I think that faith is like this… Say I want to knit a garment. I choose my pattern and follow the instructions, keeping the picture of the completed garment in front of me as I work. If I stick faithfully to the instructions, my finished work should look exactly like the picture.

God’s promises are our hope, like the picture of our finished garment. Faith is like keeping the picture in view so that we make a replica of the garment in the picture. Faith is anchored to our hope, what God has promised, the unshakeable assurance that God will do what He says. Without this trust in the reliability of God’s Word, we are doubting God Himself, thinking that He might be lying to us. How can He respond to us if we don’t trust Him?

Therefore, without faith, prayer becomes nothing more than empty words.

This brings me to an important part of our hope. Hope, the picture of the finished ‘garment’, is provided by God’s promises. If we don’t have a promise, we have nothing on which to anchor our faith. Our prayers, if we have no promise on which to base our hope, are like shooting in the dark.

How important, then, that we soak in God’s Word so that we learn His ways. Then we will understand His will and learn to pray with Him to achieve His purposes.

‭Romans 12:2 NLT‬
[2] “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”

‭1 John 5:14-15 NIV‬
[14] “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. [15] And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him.”

PRAYING GOD’S WAY – 5b

A SECOND QUALIFICATION

‭1 Corinthians 4:2 NLT‬
[2] “Now, a person who is put in charge as a manager must be faithful.”

‭Luke 18:8 NIV‬
[8]… “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith (pistis – faithfulness) on the earth?”

The word ‘pistis’, here translated ‘faith’, can also mean ‘faithfulness’.

‭Matthew 25:23 NLT‬
[23] “The master said, ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant. You have been faithful in handling this small amount, so now I will give you many more responsibilities. Let’s celebrate together!’ “

Faithfulness to one’s calling and duty is a common theme in Scripture. God penalised King Saul heavily because he was unfaithful to His instructions on more than one occasion. Saul lost his position as king and that of his descendants because of his disobedience.

‭Acts of the Apostles 13:22 NLT‬
[22] “But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do.’”

Where Saul failed, David qualified and became the role model for all of his descendants in his dynasty.

Since faithfulness is included in Paul’s description of the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit…

‭Galatians 5:22 NLT‬
[22]”But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness… “

… obedience to the leading and work of God’s Spirit in our hearts is imperative. He will produce faithfulness to God, to His Word and to our participation with Him in preparation for our place with Him in His eternal kingdom that qualifies us for our reign with Him.

Jesus told a story about a manager who was about to be fired for his wasteful use of his master’s money. The manager thought up a scheme to curry favour with his master’s debtors when he was out of work. He reduced their debt to his master, (which was also a dishonest move!).

However, Jesus commended the manager, not for his dishonesty but for his clever use of money to gain favour with the debtors.

What does the manager’s behaviour teach us about faithfulness with worldly goods?

Jesus was not telling His disciples to manipulate people by the use of money. He was showing them how to use money to serve our purposes.

‭Luke 16:9 NLT‬
[9] “Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.”

Luke 16:10-11 NLT
[10] “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. [11] And if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven? [12] And if you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own?”

We see, then, that God included the way we use our resources in His evaluation of us. The crux of the matter is…we will use our money to serve the one we love.

‭Luke 16:13 NLT‬
[13] “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.”

The way we think of and use our money is a good test of what is in our hearts.

‭Matthew 6:21 NLT‬
[21] “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.”

It seems, then, that the quality of our faithfulness will be judged by the way money serves us or we serve money.

How, then, does faithfulness for into God’s way of praying? Look at it this way, if God cannot trust us with the resources He has provided for us, why should He trust us with answers to the prayers that affect the administration of His kingdom?

Paul’s counsel to Timothy is a good guide for us to follow.

‭1 Timothy 6:17-19 NLT‬
[17]”Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. [18] Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. [19] By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.”

PRAYING GOD’S WAY – 5a

THE ADVOCATE WITHIN

‭John 14:26 NLT‬
[26] “But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.”

‭Romans 8:26-27 NLT‬
[26] “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. [27] And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.”

Before we examine some of the examples of praying God’s way in the New Testament, we must complete our pursuit of the role each member of the Trinity plays in our partnership in the administration of God’s kingdom.

Not only do we have an Advocate who represents us to the Father, Jesus, but we also have an Advocate within us, the Holy Spirit, who represents Jesus, our Advocate to us and who represents our faulty prayers to the Father. Can anything be more watertight than this!

Think of it, we come to the Father at His invitation because He has held out the golden sceptre to us. We approach Him through His appointed mediator, Jesus the Son, who offered Himself as a sacrifice for our sin according to the Father’s will, AND we have the Holy Spirit in us who understands our weakness and our groans and, who filters, refines, and presents our prayers to the Father in harmony with His will.

What could be more secure than that!

If the three persons of the Trinity are so intimately involved in our praying, then God must regard prayer as a most significant part of our lives here on earth.

He did not intend prayer to be the low purpose for which we often use prayer, a safety valve for our stresses or a means to get what we want or need. God intends prayer to be His way of including us in His reign on earth.

He created humans to manage the earth with Him, to rule over nature and its creatures.

‭Genesis 1:26 NLT‬
[26]”Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.”

Despite human rebellion, He has never indicated in His Word that He has revoked this purpose. Not only were we created to manage the earth, but He has also included in His plan our participation with Jesus in the administration of His kingdom.

‭Daniel 7:13-14, 27 NLT‬
[13] “As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into his presence. [14] He was given authority, honor, and sovereignty over all the nations of the world, so that people of every race and nation and language would obey him. His rule is eternal—it will never end. His kingdom will never be destroyed….
[27] Then the sovereignty, power, and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be given to the holy people of the Most High. His kingdom will last forever, and all rulers will serve and obey him.”

‭Revelation 20:6 NLT‬
[6] “Blessed and holy are those who share in the first resurrection. For them the second death holds no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him a thousand years.”

What this reign means for us in eternity, we have yet to discover. However, the Bible makes clear that reigning with Jesus in this life means subduing and putting to death our unruly old nature by His grace and through the power of the Holy Spirit working in us.

‭Romans 5:17 NIV‬
[17] “For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!”

‭Romans 8:12-14 NLT‬
[12]” Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. [13] For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. [14] For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.”

Since God requires us to share in His holiness, it seems clear, then, that our rule over unruly hearts is the first preparation for sharing with Jesus in His reign over His kingdom.

To be continued…

PRAYING GOD’S WAY – 4

THE GOLDEN SCEPTRE

‭Esther 4:11 NLT‬
[11] “All the king’s officials and even the people in the provinces know that anyone who appears before the king in his inner court without being invited is doomed to die unless the king holds out his gold scepter. And the king has not called for me to come to him for thirty days.”

‭Esther 5:1-3 NLT‬
[1] “On the third day of the fast, Esther put on her royal robes and entered the inner court of the palace, just across from the king’s hall. The king was sitting on his royal throne, facing the entrance. [2] When he saw Queen Esther standing there in the inner court, he welcomed her and held out the gold scepter to her. So Esther approached and touched the end of the scepter. [3] Then the king asked her, “What do you want, Queen Esther? What is your request? I will give it to you, even if it is half the kingdom!”

Most of us are familiar with the story of Esther and her role in saving her people from extermination by the Persians. Esther risked her life by approaching the king without an invitation.

The protocol in the Persian kingdom required the king to summons a subject before the subject was permitted to enter his presence. Should anyone approach him without a summons, it was his prerogative to receive that person or to order his/her execution. He would mark his approval by holding out his golden sceptre.

Esther risked execution at Mordecai’s request because of Haman, the Agagite’s wicked scheme to destroy the Jewish exiles in Persia. To her great relief, Esther pleased the king and, in response, she received his approval when he stretched out the golden sceptre to her.

How beautifully this story illustrates God the Father’s gracious approval of our approach to Him in prayer! Unlike Esther who did not know what the king’s response to her would be, we have God’s protocol clearly presented to us in His Word.

We have already learned that the Father has appointed His Son to represent us when we enter the Most Holy Place. Unlike Esther, who had no one to represent her, we have the Advocate who stands beside us to present us to the King of the universe.

Since God’s Word guarantees His approval if we follow heaven’s protocol, we need not risk our lives by approaching the Father in prayer. Not only may we approach Him, but we can also be sure that He approves us and that He will answer us if our prayers are in harmony with His will.

‭1 John 5:14-15 NLT‬
[14] “And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. [15] And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.”

In the light of the authority of our representative, and what He has done for us, we have the absolute assurance that the Father will stretch out the golden sceptre to us. Jesus not only represents us to the Father but we are also ‘in Christ’, so that everything He is is guaranteed to us as well. His righteousness is ours, His perfection is ours, God’s approval of Him is ours.

Jesus, then, is intimately involved with us in prayer. Prayer is much more than our coming to God with our prayer agendas. (I think that ‘prayer lists’ are abhorrent to God. We cannot treat our Father like a shop owner who prepares the goods we have requested for collection the next day!). Prayer is the most amazing privilege of participating with the Father through the Son, in the administration of His kingdom on earth, including all the facets of people’s lives in this glorious kingdom.

So, let us approach His throne with boldness and confidence because, through Jesus, He always extends the golden sceptre to receive us. He guarantees that He will answer us if we pray according to His will.