Meditating on Scripture

Thursday, April 7th, 2011

The pastor at my church has been carving out a few minutes at the end of his sermons for the past few weeks in order to walk us through meditating on a specific parable from the Bible. He slowly reads and rereads the passage out loud and walks us through a process of deeply reflecting on the individual components of the story. It’s a new practice for much of the congregation, and one that many are finding extremely spiritually enriching.

Have you ever purposefully meditated on a part of scripture? If so, what verses or passages have you found to be good for meditation?

Share your thoughts in the comments!

Posture, location and prayer

Friday, February 18th, 2011

While there’s no perfectly “holy” posture and location for prayer, I think it’s obvious that both effect the experience of prayer. A prayer said out loud with your family while driving down the road is going to be much different than one said while laying facedown by yourself in a private space.

How has your physical posture and location affected your spiritual posture towards prayer, if at all?

Share your thoughts in the comments!

Today’s Devotional: Intercessory Prayer

Monday, December 13th, 2010

An intercessory prayer is a prayer prayed on behalf of someone else. Our devotional today from Oswald Chambers’ My Utmost for his Highest, gives us a stern warning that we should not idly take on the responsibility of interceding on someone else’s behalf. When we pray an intercessory prayer we need to be careful. We are putting ourselves not in their place, but in God’s place:

You cannot truly intercede through prayer if you do not believe in the reality of redemption. Instead, you will simply be turning intercession into useless sympathy for others, which will serve only to increase the contentment they have for remaining out of touch with God. True intercession involves bringing the person, or the circumstance that seems to be crashing in on you, before God, until you are changed by His attitude toward that person or circumstance. Intercession means to “fill up . . . [with] what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ” (Colossians 1:24), and this is precisely why there are so few intercessors. People describe intercession by saying, “It is putting yourself in someone else’s place.” That is not true! Intercession is putting yourself in God’s place; it is having His mind and His perspective.

[...]

What we must avoid in intercession is praying for someone to be simply “patched up.” We must pray that person completely through into contact with the very life of God. Think of the number of people God has brought across our path, only to see us drop them! When we pray on the basis of redemption, God creates something He can create in no other way than through intercessory prayer.

Read the rest of the devotional at utmost.org.

Have you ever prayed an intercessory prayer?

Today’s Devotional: Coping when it’s too much

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Have you ever felt utterly overwhelmed? How did you cope?

Anabel Gillham writes at Lifetime Guarantee about how Jesus dealt with the stress of His earthly life. In his final hours, Jesus found a quiet place by himself on Mount Olivet where he could pour out his heart to God:

We can learn something else from our beloved Savior: He went away by Himself and spent the night on the mount called Olivet, isolated from the suffocating, human barricade that imprisoned Him, clutching at His robe, calling—screaming—sobbing— “Help me! Please help me.” Was He burdened with the multitudes who came only to see a lame man walk or a blind man see—fleeting, fragile miracles of physical healing that would last only for a brief span of time when eternity was on His mind? Yes. He longed to be by Himself in a quiet place with no interruptions sharing His thoughts with His Father and drawing strength for what was to come.

When life’s stresses overcome you, do you have a place where you go to cry out to God?

Today’s Devotional: Letting the Holy Spirit Translate

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

In Romans 8, Paul writes that when we’re in a state of spiritual confusion the Holy Spirit will step in and translate our anguish for God. This devotional from Day by Day reminds us that God doesn’t need us to say anything when we come to Him. He understands exactly what we are feeling and what we need:

It is out of that love and knowledge that the Holy Spirit takes our concerns before the Lord. For in such a time we may find ourselves coming to God when we cannot find the words to say what needs to be said, or the words to confess our wrong, or the words to simply speak to Him because our hearts are heavy and have made it difficult to speak. We find that there are times when our circumstances are so hard, or our feelings so intense that though we wish to communicate with God, we are unable. Yet the Holy Spirit intercedes with expressions of what is within us, and effectively communicates what must be said. He will not let our needs go unmet, but ensures that our needs are sufficiently brought before the Father.

Our Father loves us so very much, and has provided for us every imaginable way to give us what is needed to keep our relationship with Him where it needs to be. In those times that our hearts are so heavy that we cannot utter a word, we can know that we can simply come into the presence of God and silently sit. And as our emotions well up within, there is One who sits with us. And without a word from us, the heaviness of our hearts and the urgency of our needs are carried to the Father by He who was sent to us to be our comforter.

When you come into the presence of God but cannot find the words, just relax and rest in Him, knowing that what you cannot say is not going unheard.

Read the entire devotional at daybyday.org.

Have you ever faced a situation in which you had to rely on the Holy Spirit to intercede for you?

Today’s Devotional: The Routines of Faith

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Depending on when you ask me there’s a good chance I’d call myself a runner. There are times when I wear the label proudly, but there are times when it’s been months since I’ve accelerated beyond a brisk walk. Catch me then and you’ll get an extensive and meandering litany of excuses.

Running, like most physical activity, is habit based. For the most part, the more regularly you work out, the more you want to do it. After all, staying in shape is much easier than getting into shape.

The devotional over at Our Daily Bread today is about our spiritual routines. Just as we can get into healthy physical activities like running, we can get into healthy spiritual routines like setting aside time to pray or praise God:

Summer can also be a dangerous time of breaking good habits. Certain routines are good. They increase our efficiency and ensure that important things get done. After all, we need to have fixed times and places for certain things or the world would be chaotic. Creation is designed to operate on schedule, and, as part of it, so are we. We need food and sleep at regular intervals.

We sometimes hear legitimate warnings about allowing routines to turn into ruts. But the Bible indicates that having set times for certain things is good. David indicated that morning was the right time for him to praise God and ask for His direction (Ps. 5:3; 143:8). And Daniel prayed three times a day, and not even the threat of death made him change his routine (Dan. 6:10).

While enjoying carefree days, we must not become careless about spending time with God. Savoring spiritual sustenance is a routine for all seasons.

Read the entire devotional at odb.org.

Where in your daily routine does time with God fall? If you don’t have a habit of praying to God at a certain time, how might you develop one?

Today’s devotional: Prayer is critical!

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Despite their close association with Jesus, the twelve disciples were not models of spiritual maturity. On the contrary—it’s hard to read many New Testament passages without rolling our eyes at their short-sightedness or wondering how they could possibly have failed to grasp Jesus’ teachings.

It is, of course, unfair to judge the disciples from our vantage point two thousand years later. If we were in their position, following a radical teacher whose teachings routinely overturned their long-held religious beliefs, we’d make the same mistakes they did. But it’s still instructive to examine the disciples’ weaknesses, and to ask ourselves if we are doing any better today. That’s what this devotional from Today does:

Perhaps more than anything, the disciples were lacking in prayer. They often were not able to act wisely when there was a crisis. When Jesus needed them to keep watch and pray while he searched out the Father’s will that night on the Mount of Olives, he found them asleep. How frustrating this must have been for Jesus when he was in anguish!

Jesus has shown us how important a life of prayer is. In prayer he connected with his Father in heaven, finding renewed energy and courage to keep on with his mission. And on this night, as Jesus prayed before his arrest and crucifixion, he needed the Father’s assurance that his death on the cross was the only way to save us from our sins. We needed Jesus to do this for us, and he found the strength and the will to do it by connecting with God through prayer.

Many of the disciples’ stumbling points can be traced back to this one thing: a lack of prayer. How about you—is prayer a central part of your everyday life, informing your decisions and guiding your actions? If you had been on the Mount of Olives that night, would Jesus have found you deep in prayer… or dozing off with the disciples?

Should we pray for Christopher Hitchens?

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Christopher Hitchens, the sharp-tongued atheist author and speaker, has been diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Hitchens’ situation has set an unusual discussion question flitting from blog to blog: should Christians pray for Christopher Hitchens?

The Jeffrey Goldberg post that kicked off the discussion muses:

In one e-mail to [Hitchens], I wrote, “I’m thinking of you and (insert prayer joke here).” Hitchens, who is America’s most famous and pugnacious atheist, has by now received several dozen variants of this same line, undoubtedly doesn’t want my prayers, and since I don’t necessarily believe, in any case, that God sits in heaven keeping track of the sick and deciding for whom chemotherapy should work and for whom it should not, I don’t feel overly compelled to pray for him. Though I might anyway.

My first reaction upon hearing this question was “Of course we should pray for Christopher Hitchens”—after all, Jesus explicitly commands us to do so. I like the way that Greg Kandra puts it in a blog post addressing this question:

Just because Hitchens thinks [that prayer is worthless] doesn’t make it so. And prayer isn’t a chore, or a favor we do to bail out someone. It is an act of faith. And it is a gift. It engages the one who prays in a divine conversation that may do as much for the pray-er as it does for the pray-ee. The entire world is uplifted just a bit if even just one person takes a moment to whisper an “Our Father” with an intention of love and joyful hope.

In other words, prayer isn’t a job that we do just for those who we think “deserve” it—we’re commanded to pray. It’s a privilege to pray, and earnest prayer for even “enemies of the faith” like Hitchens should be a reflexive action.

What do you think? Are you willing to pray for Christopher Hitchens’ health? Are there people you struggle to pray for? How would you advise a Christian who found it hard to pray for an enemy or a tormentor in their life?

(And if private prayer isn’t enough, there’s even a Facebook group for Christians who are praying for Christopher Hitchens.)

Answering common objections to the faith: Does prayer really work?

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Duerer-PrayerThis is the third in our series of posts addressing common objections to Christianity. As we stated in the first post in the series, we’re looking at common, real-life objections to Christianity and asking how you would respond to them.

Imagine that a friend has challenged you with this objection, and that you don’t have access to any books, sermons, or other publications to which you can refer them. They want to hear your response, in your own words!

How would you respond to this statement?

The Bible teaches that prayer is effective (James 5:16) and promises that God will give believers anything they ask for in prayer (Matthew 21:22). Yet many Christians, even the most devout and faithful, have earnestly prayed for something and not received it. This means that either God doesn’t really answer all prayers, or that prayer simply doesn’t work.

Share your response!

Previous posts in this series:

  • Why does God allow Hell to exist?
  • Did God endorse genocide?
  • Today’s devotional: why doesn’t God just do something?

    Friday, May 14th, 2010

    Earlier this week, we highlighted a devotional about effective prayer. But what about prayers that God doesn’t seem to answer at all? Are those “ineffective” prayers? When we call out to God for help or when an injustice happens, why doesn’t He always appear to set things right? Why doesn’t He do something?

    That’s the question asked in this devotional at Lifetime Guarantee Ministries. Anabel Gillham wonders about God’s apparent silence:

    Why does He wait and wait and wait when we so desperately are begging Him to “do something?” Why? Because God is omniscient. He knows everything. He has His plans all drawn up and we cannot grasp His ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:9 NAS). We didn’t know what God had in mind that dark day on Calvary’s hill. He was fulfilling the plan that had been set in motion before the foundation of the earth. He was redeeming mankind. He was making a way for us to regain our fellowship with Him. He was opening Heaven’s doors for His children. Reconciled at last!

    And we can say, “I see that was necessary for His plan to be carried out! But why war, why tragedies, why suffering?” Because He is fulfilling the plan that was set in motion for you and me before the foundation of the world. God has a plan for my life as surely as He had a plan for Jesus.

    Read the full devotional at Lifetime Guarantee Ministries.

    Have you ever wondered why God remained silent and inactive in spite of your prayers? How do you respond when God’s response to prayer or needs in your life isn’t what you hoped for?