We must (MUST!) pray as believers in Jesus. Prayer is the oxygen of our spiritual life. We must breathe, or else. When I go to my doctor she puts an 0ximeter on my finger so she can assess how my lungs are using oxygen. I suppose if we would put it on our “spiritual finger,” might it reveal something?
We don’t know exactly how to pray, I think communicating with God isn’t natural. We must be taught. The disciples wanted desperately how to pray–they didn’t know how, (Luke 11:1-2). So, we too must have Jesus teach us.
We can only learn how if the Spirit teaches us.
Also, we must practice praying. We may do it terribly rotten, but we should never give up–it’s not natural–it’s supernatural. But we learn by doing. We may get discouraged but keep at it. Even if you’re a pro, the Holy Spirit will make sure you keep learning. Our walk should always grow deeper.
For me praying the Psalms is good practice, and there are 150 of them. The Jewish people have a 4000-year start on us–they’ve used the Psalms as their prayer/praise book. My sense is that this covers every human need–the entirety of our spiritual walk!
I think that Psalms 103 might be a great place to get started.
I’ve been told by some that the “Lord’s Prayer” is quite useful as well. I guess if you honestly take it phrase by phrase, something good will happen. I’m still learning (and I suspect I still will).
Below we find a way to jumpstart our prayer life. I hope you can use it.
One more thought. “Conversational Prayer” is a good thing for me lately. Talk with Jesus as if He was in the same room with you (He is) and just converse. Share your ups and downs, and it’s okay if you feel messed up. Relax. He’s your Father!
“I go east, but he is not there. I go west, but I cannot find him.9 I do not see him in the north, for he is hidden. I look to the south, but he is concealed.
“But he knows where I am going. And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold. For I have stayed on God’s paths; I have followed his ways and not turned aside.”
Job 23:10-11, NLT
Job is not sure where God is exactly.
He can’t really provide us any insight or understanding. But Job knows one thing very well; the outcome will be wonderfully ‘golden’ (v. 10).
Job explains his confidence, “He knows where I am going.” That sweet understanding gives him an awareness and a sensitivity toward the presence of God. “He knows where I am going.” He, the Almighty God, the Creator and Sustainer of everything, looks to me, Bryan, the puny and small–the littlest pimple on the ankle of the smallest flea. Yet, He knows everything about me.
Verse 10 becomes my trumpet blast.
Testing me is His full intention. He intends to make me pure and true. And as I think of this, I first should understand that it is ‘He’ that is making me. It’s the Father’s work; it is certainly not by my silly little efforts.
His intention is to put us in His crucible. It’s there that He heats us until we are melted and gleaming–shiny and pure. Just understanding this process, brings us into a huge, new dimension. We understand now why we have this dynamic we call discipleship.
Verse 11 now speaks to us about this sweaty work of growing up. There is an “Under Construction” sign that hangs over us, we are being worked on. And Job’s faith, thrown into the crucible, becomes transformed into a solid walk. Is this plausible for us today? Should we evaluate our walks from His perspective?
Job claims this understanding. “For I have stayed on God’s paths; I have followed his ways and not turned aside.” Some might suggest religious pride. But also, could it be that he has been transformed by the crucible? Could it be that a man was being changed and altered by a heated furnace?
The intensity of the Holy Spirit, and His sovereign use of our various trials, delight in this process we call sanctification. Make an effort to walk in that direction today.
“The same Jesus who turned water into wine can transform your home, your life, your family, and your future. He is still in the miracle-working business, and His business is the business of transformation.”
Today, through the marvel of modern medicine, we can do heart bypasses, heart transplants and install artificial hearts.
But no one can make an unclean heart clean once it becomes dirty. We cannot fix it to live in eternity with a infinitely holy God. It’s through the process of biblical discipleship that you and I are being prepared for living with Him.
Discipleship is the methodology (?!) God has ordained for us to change our hearts. But because discipleship is so challenging and so demanding, we’re tempted to avoid the Gospel’s call. Sometimes it seems like there are many, many believers and just a few disciples.
Nothing but discipleship is an acceptable response to His sacrifice on the cross for me.
Let’s consider the terms and conditions of being his disciple. Please think these through, perhaps they will help, and perhaps you already understand them. They’re somewhat basic:
1) A true disciple will love Jesus Christ above all.
34-37 “Don’t think I’ve come to make life cozy. I’ve come to cut—make a sharp knife-cut between son and father, daughter and mother, bride and mother-in-law—cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God. Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies. If you prefer father or mother over me, you don’t deserve me. If you prefer son or daughter over me, you don’t deserve me.”
Matthew 10:34-37, Message
“It never cost a disciple anything to follow Jesus; to talk about cost when you are in love with Him is an insult.”
2) A true disciple must deny himself.
“Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”
3) A true disciple, intentionally and deliberately, embraces the cross.
“And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”
“The cross of discipleship is that I daily and hourly delight to tell my human nature that I an not my own; I no longer claim right to myself.”
4) A true disciple is close to Jesus and follows Him.
“If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”
5) A true disciple will love other disciples.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”
1 John 4:7
It is incredible to see the fervor with which the people of that religion help each other in their wants, They spare nothing. Their first legislator [Jesus] has put it in their hearts that they are brethren.”
–Lucian, Greek writer (120-200 A.D.)
6) A true disciple abides (continues) in the teaching of the Lord.
“So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples.”
John 8:31 (John 15:8-9)
7) A true disciple lives to follow the words and teaching of the Lord Jesus.
“Jesus said to him, “’No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’”
A simple word about joy. The Holy Spirit turns all the hard things of discipleship into sweetness. Perhaps the difficult part is found in the first few minutes of the decision to follow in a specific matter. But the peaceful presence soon follows and your life will be flooded with light. There is incredible joy in this life of discipleship.
A word about obedience. The Holy Spirit rushes in to touch the weakest act of obedience. He understands our feeble and cowardly hearts and promises to help us to obey Him.
A word about becoming unique. The disciple is a rarity among the world (and even the Church). Following Him in your walk may set you apart as odd and peculiar. If you will follow it will mean you will die to what people think. You should love them anyway. You may be persecuted and spoken evil of. Forgive them, they won’t understand.
“You were cleansed from your sins when you obeyed the truth, so now you must show sincere love to each other as brothers and sisters. Love each other deeply with all your heart.”
1 Peter 1:22, NLT
Love defines us as believers. I’ve recently been sharing God’s love to Steve, a backslidden Christian who sleeps in the woods behind our local Safeway. I’m aware that Jesus loves him so much, and that love just seems to burst out of me. I can hardly contain it. The Father loves Steve, and I hope to share that same love the next time I talk with him. He introduces me to other homeless people, “Here’s my pastor,” and that is an encouragement, but it often embarrasses me.
Love takes on many different forms. But it always is giving. It simply can’t be thinking of itself; it exists for others and takes no thought of itself. That magnificence that is God’s love gets funneled through us, and we are compelled to share it. Perhaps we are simply called to be ‘the transfer point.’
“And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows.”
1 Thess. 3:12
God initiates the love to be shared. Some of us are weaker than others; perhaps we are physically or mentally handicapped. But as believers, we are to turn to God to fill our hearts. When it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter how flawed you are, what matters is the vast ocean of God’s love. Weakness only makes it easier, because we’ve quit relying on ourselves to love others.
“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
Our calling is to be ‘naturally supernatural.’ And that will take the dealings of God.
But please remember the joy that is present when you get to communicate His love. The book of Philippians is saturated with Paul’s joy at sharing God’s love. He sees it as his privilege to share it with the Church. And oh how God loves His Church! The Holy Spirit can teach you, how to do this if you’re teachable. IF…is a big word.
Faith makes all things possible… love makes all things easy.