Prayer Changes Me

“I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time – waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God – it changes me.”

C.S. Lewis

One of my blogging friends, Theresa Moore, posted this quote on Facebook the other day and it really stuck with me. C.S. Lewis was such a brilliant man and has such a wonderful way of explaining faith and related matters.

I especially can relate to the last part of the quote: “It doesn’t change God – it changes me.” That is so true. God does not change. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. But by spending time with Him in prayer I am changed to be more like Him each day. As I pray for the ability to see me as He sees me – both as I am and as He desires me to be – I grow in faith and understanding. I cannot help but be changed by this process.

I have found another thing about prayer.

Jesus said that we should pray for our enemies and for those who persecute us. When we do this, our tendency is to pray that God would change them. But prayer seldom changes the difficult people in our lives (though on occasion it can). What prayer for our enemies does is change our attitude towards them. When I earnestly pray for the difficult people in my life, God helps me to see them from His perspective and to understand a little better why they might be the way they are and the root of their difficult behavior.

Prayer doesn’t change my enemies.

It changes me. It helps me gain the wisdom and compassion necessary to love them as God has called me to do. And when I love them, perhaps I might help them to change, too.

“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Romans 12:19-21 (NIV).

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Are We Standing in the Gap?

“I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior.” (1Timothy 2:1-3, NLT)

“The Church has not yet touched the fringe of the possibilities of intercessory prayer. Her largest victories will be witnessed when individual Christians everywhere come to recognize their priesthood unto God and day by day give themselves unto prayer.” –John R. Mott

You are a priest without a collar. Your work is called “intercession.” It isn’t for cowards or the spiritual lazy. It needs to be ‘hidden’ in order to really work. No one should see, there will be no adulation or recognition. You may not even feel special. But God sees and hears you. Jesus told each one of us,

“But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.” (Mathew 6:6)

When we ignite in prayer, we will see things as Jesus sees them. We will share His view and take part in His high priestly ministry. Jesus isn’t complacent, sitting on His throne, waiting for time to run out. I suppose that is the view of some, but it honestly isn’t real.

“So then, since we have a great High Priest who has entered heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to what we believe. 15 This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin. 16 So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most (Hebrews 4:14-16, NLT)

Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Romans 8:34, NIV)

When we start to really intercede we become a sort of a “sub-priest.” We serve under the Lord Jesus the High Priest’s direction. We engage our work under the Holy Spirit’s oversight, and we start to plead for those who need Him most. We are the one’s who make things happen when we stand with Jesus. So who and what do we pray for?

  1. Family and friends
  2. the sick, those in distress
  3. the stranger, the one who bags our groceries
  4. the church we attend, the pastor and elders, the congregation
  5. missions, or missionaries in a certain country, or in general
  6. for ministries working under God’s direction
  7. finances, supplies, for more workers in the ‘vineyard’
  8. safety and protection from the evil one, cults and businesses that ‘traffic’ in evil
  9. more wisdom and grace for all who are ministering God’s Word, for other intercessors
  10. our government, police, soldiers–from the ‘dog catcher’ to the president

These ten are just a start to get you going, this list is not complete by no means, but it’s a beginning. As you start praying you will add and expand these things. Remember that faith is a key component in the work of intercession. You must come in harmony with His present ministry. You do this through:

  1. praise and worship
  2. Bible reading and thinking about the Word
  3. listening and discerning what is happening around you
  4. asking questions that really matter
  5. being humble and broken, not haughty or proud as you pray
  6. becoming alert to all of the needs around you, be sneaky but holy
  7. instill in your heart the Kingdom of God and the supreme ministry of the King
  8. exercise His authority over the earth, see things as they really are
  9. personal prayer times that get you ready to pick up the ‘mantle’ of intercession
  10. see yourself joined in this ministry of Jesus, who wants “all men to be saved”

Don’t be surprised if the Spirit draws you to a specific need. I believe that there are ‘specialists’ in the Body of Christ. One person will concentrate his attention on the sick or the demonized. Another may be dedicated to praying for the president or the Supreme Court, and someone else might pray for certain missionaries or countries. In short, you must listen to the High Priest, and get your cue from Him. He most certainly will direct you on where you should stand!

There is definite power in joining with another or in a group. It seems to me though that this can be a challenge as we can get disengaged or passive. Spiritual laziness extinguishes the fire of God. Yet if we are sincere our intercession can become ‘turbocharged’ when we are actively with another. It should be a skill we develop over time. It will take concentrated work on your part to stay focused.

None of this is concrete. I know my own limitations on this stuff. All I wanted to do is give a different perspective and to, somehow, shine a different light on this subject. And I most certainly covet your prayers as I learn to intercede.

Your brother, who is still learning,

Bryan

  

My Anger

“Be not quick in your spirit to become angry, for anger lodges in the heart of fools.”

-Ecclesiastes 7:9

“Of the Seven Deadly Sins, anger is possibly the most fun. To lick your wounds, to smack your lips over grievances long past … to savor to the last toothsome morsel both the pain you are given and the pain you are giving back — in many ways it is a feast fit for a king. The chief drawback is that what you are wolfing down is yourself. The skeleton at the feast is you.”

-Frederick Buechner

What really happens when I get angry? I suppose my B/P goes up and I get all red, but just perhaps it’s a bit more than that. The Bible is painfully clear on the subject of anger. It seems there is an anger that is righteous; and one that is unrighteous. It is the latter I’m most familiar with, unfortunately. And repeatedly our anger, the earthly kind, is condemned by Scripture. It is terribly wrong, and it is sin.

Merriam-Webster defines anger as “a strong feeling of displeasure and usually of antagonism, or rage.” This definition seems right on. First–it’s a strong feeling. There is an intensity to it, and it ‘clouds’ my sense of what is reasonable. Second–it has some form of frustration and irritation. Third–it escalates into “rage.” And I suppose that anger at this particular level is where it really, really gets destructive. At this point we become totally irrational and unbelievably destructive. When we get to this point we become “fools.”

I remember clearly having a dog that killed a chicken. My dad took the carcass and wired it to the dogs neck. After some time that chicken began to rot. It putrefied to the point where pieces of that carcass started to fall off. I can still see the dog’s eyes rolling, and he was slobbering all over. the place. That dog never even touched another chicken. It completely cure him. (I suppose the ASPCA would object today.)

I suppose that is what carnal anger is like. It’s something that we carry around and it defiles us. We learn that evil attaches itself to each of us and pollutes us. We soon realize that this kind of life is really death. When anger is attached to us, we are poisoned inside. Someone once said that “he who angers you, conquers you.”

No matter how just your words might be, you ruin everything when you speak with anger.”

–John Chrysostom

There is another kind of anger though. It’s the kind that is turned on when we are angry with ourselves. We call this “self-condemnation.” Internalized disgust with yourself is extremely corrosive to our personality and our spirits. Instead of an authentic confidence in what Jesus’ has done, we look inside with hate, anger and disgust. We condemn and put ourselves under a twisted form of justice that is not biblical, nor is it true.

When we become angry with ourselves (and yes, we sin constantly) we dismiss the sacrifice of Jesus and His forgiveness. We become a law unto ourselves, and we pass a guilty judgement on our sinfulness. Christians are quite often ‘crippled’ by self-condemnation and a vicious guilt. Perhaps we are the most ‘visible’ when it comes to this kind of self-hatred.

Satan is the prime instigator of this attack. He desires to split you from fellowship with God. That is the way he functions, you might say that this is his evil ‘ministry.’ His specialty is guilt, an inciting an unholy anger which we turn inward. We give him the right to accuse us before God. We no longer see the blood of Christ as our covering for our sin. He indicts us before a holy God, and all we see is our guilt. Is it any wonder that we are angry with ourselves?

“The salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have now come. The accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accused them day and night before our God, has been thrown down.” (Revelation 12:10)

I suppose this anger at ourselves is perhaps our most difficult challenge we face. More believers are ‘hamstrung’ by this than any other sin. When we turn on ourselves, we become angry and self-condemned. We avoid His healing presence, His Word and the fellowship of other saints. Most of all, we don’t want to pray or worship.

Dear one, come to Jesus, and bring along your issues. He is the one who loves you. He died, and He has covered you with His blood. He is God’s Passover lamb who takes away all your sin. Jesus’ present day ministry is not just sitting on a golden throne, He is actively interceding for you even as you read this.

” He poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” (Isaiah 53:12)

Your forgiven brother,

Bryan

Tensile Prayer

“Please be assured that from the first day we heard of you, we haven’t stopped praying for you, we are simply asking God to give you wise minds and spirits attuned to his will, and so you can acquire a thorough understanding of the ways in which God works.”

“We concentrate on this, and pray that you’ll live well for the Master, making him proud of you as you work hard in his orchard. As you learn more and more how God works, you will learn how to do your work.”

“We pray that you’ll have the strength to stick it out over the ‘long haul”—not the grim strength of gritting your teeth but the “glory-strength”  God gives. It is strength that endures the unendurable, and then spills over into joy, thanking the Father who makes us strong enough to take part in everything bright and beautiful that he has for us. ”

–Amen.

This is a paraphrase that I made of Colossians 1:9-12, using the Message Bible.  This is one of those “scripture” prayers, often found in the Psalms, but also in the Epistles.  It does seem as Paul actually prayed as he wrote.  This prayer is indeed evidence of this.  It has the wonderful side effect of praying while doing something else, and what that might look like, especially when done discreetly and appropriately.

“Tensile” is a most interesting word, and concept.  It has the idea of being stretched without being torn apart.  A perfect word to describe intercessory prayer.

Do we really pray enough?  It isn’t a question of “volume”  but of quality, and precision.  When I am focused and begin to be directed to a certain person, or a very idea— I start to pray, focused and accurate.  But in the “quantity” aspect.  I do admit I often falter and fumble this.

The content of this man’s prayer was fabulous, and incredibly strong.  It does seem that it covers quite a few bases.  We can draw out so much.  And yet I keep coming back to the manner in which  Paul prayed.  I wonder if we could be taught to do the same?

Somehow we start praying in this same level. By faith we can weave that  tensile strength into hearts of those we love, and understand the hearts of our brothers, or sisters.

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