Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Week Thirty-Nine - Prayer Doesn't Give You Spiritual Power

My husband and I enjoy using the same devotion book. Each year we choose a new one and find that reading the same thoughts each morning gives us something to talk about. This year, we have been using Henry Blackaby's book, Experiencing God Day by Day.

One of his devotions on prayer caught my imagination when I read this statement, "Prayer does not give you spiritual power."

What? Prayer does not give you spiritual power? But prayer is so powerful. Elijah used it to call fire from heaven. Hezekiah prayed, and God extended his life. Throughout the Bible, we see prayer as a precursor for significant events. So what does Blackaby mean by "prayer does not give you spiritual power?"

He said, "Prayer aligns your life with God so that He chooses to demonstrate His power through you."

Prayer aligns your life?

I got to thinking about the times when my life was not aligned with God, when I was fearful, uncertain, or worried. Prayer definitely brought me back to a better perspective. I know prayer removed my fears and concerns, causing me to put my focus back on God's ability.

Then, Blackaby said, "The purpose of prayer is not to convince God to change your circumstances but to prepare you to be involved in God's activity. The fervent prayer of the people at Pentecost did not induce the Holy Spirit to come upon them. Prayer brought them to a place where they were ready to participate in the mighty work God had already planned."

Wow! "The fervent prayer of the people at Pentecost did not induce the Holy Spirit to come upon them."

How many times have we been guilty of thinking we could pray hard enough to make things happen? Have we ever thought that we could "induce" the Spirit of God to act by the strength of our prayers? That seems rather presumptuous, doesn't it? That we could pray and make God do stuff?

Blackaby explains that prayer actually brings us, as he said, into alignment with God. Prayer changes us and helps us see and cooperate with God's already designed outcome. It chops away the hindrances and questions, solidifying our faith in God.

Blackaby then recounts the events that led to the Pentecost. Jesus had told the disciples to remain in Jerusalem, and they obeyed, waiting for God's next instruction. While they waited, we read of them using prayer to discern the addition of Matthias as the new apostle. When we come to Pentecost in chapter 2 of Acts, we see they are "all with one accord in one place." "Prayer," Blackaby says, "prepared the disciples for their obedient response."

As I thought more about that first statement: "Prayer does not give you spiritual power," I realized that prayer did not cause Pentecost. It was a mighty act of God. But God used prayer to prepare the disciples for what was about to happen and through prayer, they were guided into God's will.

Blackaby is right. Prayer doesn't give me some mystical power, but God uses it to prepare my heart for what He is about to do. Prayer changes my outlook, installs faith and willingness, and gives me hope and expectation to look for God's mighty acts in my life.

How about you? Are you trying to pray hard enough to make things happen? Do you believe your prayer aren't answered because you haven't prayed with enough faith? Or can you see, as I did, that prayer aligns us with God's plan? How much more power would be in our prayer life if we began seeing it as preparation for our obedient response?

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Week Thirty-Eight - Wearing Your Feelings on Your Sleeve

The other day I came across this shared post. Have a read and see if you have experienced something similar.

"Last couple days, the devil hit me where it hurts - rejection. I'm sharing and making myself super vulnerable here because I want you to see how he operates.

Whether it be looking for a response from several people and not being able to get a hold of anyone, unintentionally interrupting someone and being told to stop, being told by people they would have to call me back, the devil used these experiences as evidence for his accusation - see, no one wants you around.

But in all of these cases, people's actions aren't personal. In fact, most had absolutely nothing to do with me. But my flesh and the devil worked in unison to make it all about me.

So, rather than just letting the devil continue to knock me upside the head, I was like, "Hey, wait a minute. Isn't it the devil's plan to isolate me? Isn't it his plot to cause division and strife? To make me feel unwanted, rejected, and disgusted by my mere existence and kill me by my own hands?"


So I picked up my sword (the Word of God) and fought back. I got angry at the devil - not at these innocent people.

I said, "I cast you out, spirit of offense and rejection, in Jesus' name. I belong in the name of Jesus, and no weapon formed against me shall prosper."

And he fled.

That's what you have to do. You must take every thought captive that does not align with the Word and submit it to Christ. Sometimes you have to get violent in the spirit. Once you realize the war isn't with other people, it is with the rulers of darkness and your flesh, you will be so powerful."

by Paige DeRogatis

As I read her post, I remembered times when my feelings had been unintentionally hurt by the words or actions of others. I was wearing my feelings on my sleeve instead of using wisdom and discernment. There were even times when the enemy got the advantage, and I found myself whimpering in a corner and complaining instead of standing in God's truth.

Let's take hold of the lesson here. We must be vigilant and aware of the enemy's tactics, dressed in our spiritual armor and standing in truth, so he has no chance for victory. So if you are wearing your feelings on your sleeve, maybe it's time to shake them off!

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Week Thirty-Seven - With the Passing of Our Queen

Elizabeth George wrote, "Nothing has just randomly happened to put you where you are. God has a plan in it all."

We can be sure, and scripture affirms, that God places people where He wants them according to His plan. So when that first little girl was born to King George VI, her life was already destined for the throne. And, she came to leadership very early, but that was also by God's hand.

Before you wag your tongue or have a negative thought, remember that God places everyone in position, family, and circumstance according to His design. You are who you are and where you are by God's plan, and so was she.

Since her passing, television has been full of documentaries and commentaries on her life. And with each one, thankfulness has been expressed for how she carried out her role. She has been an excellent example of accepting responsibility and fulfilling duty.

When Elizabeth George wrote, she was not thinking of the Queen, but as I looked back at some notes I had taken, I see how these four things she advised aptly apply. If we accept that nothing just randomly puts us where we are, but God has a plan, we will recognize that the good times and the bad go together. Nothing is outside His control. Our part is to live out what God places before us so His name is glorified. Here are Elizabeth George's four points.

First, we must be willing to acknowledge God's hand. He is the one who designs and controls our lives. We were made by Him and created on purpose. We are not here by chance. And God works all things together for our good and for His purpose.

Then, we must work within what God has given us. She calls it blooming. We bloom where we are planted as we develop our lives using our God-given talents, abilities, and resources. The goal is to make a good life and to be a benefit to those around us. We are to make things better where we are. We certainly cannot make things better where we are not, so wishing for a different set of circumstances or to be someone different is a waste of energy. Instead, we are wisest to receive what God has given us and do our best. 

I have found that when I accept who I am and content myself that I am perfectly designed for what God wants to accomplish in my life, I am more thankful, productive, and creative. We can certainly see these qualities in the late Queen. She accepted her God-given role and used her entire life to fulfill it, saying, "I know that the only way to live my life is to try to do what is right, to take the long view, to give of my best in all that the day brings, and to put my trust in God."

As Christians, we are not left alone to work this all out. We have the promises of God to claim, scripture for directives, and the Spirit of God to point us to the truth. Queen Elizabeth spoke many times about her faith and reliance upon God. We cannot judge her heart, but her actions reveal a woman of faith.

Finally, Elizabeth George says we should do something useful. We are not here to simply fill space or be takers. We are here to give, to serve God and others. The first two commandments teach us precisely that. Love God, and love others. 

Dear friend, with the passing of our Queen, we would all do well to examine our own lives. Do we understand God placed us here for a purpose? Do we make it our life's goal to improve things around us, to make life better? Are we blooming where we are planted? Are we claiming the promises of God and relying on Him in all we do? And are we actively loving and serving God. Finally, are we genuinely loving others?

A - Acknowledge God's Hand
B - Bloom where you are.
C - Claim and concentrate on the promises of God
D - Do something useful - serve God and others

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Week Thirty-Six - Dud Days

Ever had a dud day? A day when you feel totally blah? There is no apparent reason; nothing is wrong, but nothing is right. You just don't care. Nothing makes sense, and you're not bothered to think anything through? When if you do think, it turns to worry, frustration and fear, so distractions are a better option. When prayer feels like silence and nothing holds any joy.

I'd imagine we have all been there at one time or another. I find these days most annoying because I don't seem to accomplish much. I usually go to bed hoping the next day will hold brighter prospects. I've also learned a few other things about dud days.

First, they are a gift from God. "Really?" you might say. "How can a dud day be a gift?" 

Well, it is a gift of a day without controversy or drama. It is a day with no demands or expectations. It is a day to sit on the shelf and rejuvenate. It is a day that causes you to appreciate other days. There are lots of ways to look at it as a gift. And looking at it this way is much healthier than stomping or pouting your way through.

Having said that, I've also learned that my attitude on dud days is essential. When I face a dud day, I can still choose to hope in God, pray, believe, do right, rest, and wait. I know I am still loved and can be thankful for the downtime. It's even an excellent opportunity to be looking for God's hand. He's up to something and has probably put me on hold until He is ready for my next assignment or He is preparing me. Nothing is wasted in God's economy, even dud days.

I've not found a place in Scripture that speaks directly to dud days, but I have learned a few principles. Paul says, "my strength is made perfect in weakness...when I am weak, then am I strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10). On the dud days, I feel at my weakest, my least worthy and useful, but maybe that is precisely what God wants me to feel, so I will learn to better rely on His strength and not my own.

Another thing I've learned is that those dud days give me the opportunity to re-evaluate my life. I can sit and stare or I can take a good hard look at how I am managing life and what changes I might need to make. With no distractions or demands facing me, I have time to peer through the fog and make a better plan.

And dud days are a great opportunity for reading, cleaning, and creativity. Sort a closet, refresh a wall, finish another chapter. Even a little progress helps you feel better.

And even during dud days, our souls long for God. I think that's why we feel so empty. Or maybe, dud days remind us of the futility of this life. For whatever reason, I believe the psalmist David experienced something similar when he wrote Psalm 42. There are hints throughout the chapter of his emptiness and struggle. But he rested with this thought, "I shall yet praise Him." And we will, too! Dud days are but for a moment. So be thankful, and let your soul rest instead of growing frustrated!