In my sojourn through the Valley of Anxiety, I struggled through sleepless nights and shaky days, and regrets often surfaced. In late November, I wrote this prayer:
Dear Lord, You are God, the only God. You are the One who has ultimate control. I want to fit into Your plans, for they are good. You have always been faithful to me. Please forgive me for the times I’ve turned away and looked longingly at what I thought might have been or what used to be. Too often I’ve run after what looked good from a human perspective instead of trusting Your goodness. Please forgive and cleanse as you have promised (1 John 1:9).
2015 National Park in California
Lord Jesus, I remember Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His creation—created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time so that we should walk in them.”* And I feel so ashamed of the many times I’ve missed opportunities to do the good works prepared ahead of time for me to do. Lord God, please work in me according to Your promise in Philippians 2:13—“For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to will and to act for His good purpose.”* Then I can take advantage of the opportunities which You give me today instead of missing them and tomorrow wallowing in regret. Amen.
*Holman Christian Standard Bible
Real faith results in obedience. For me to respond in faith to what God says in His Word means putting it into action in my life. I would choose to obey—to do what the Word says instead of just listening and nodding my head in agreement. (Romans 2:13; James 1:22)
This afternoon I got frustrated with a customer service representative who couldn’t seem to understand my question no matter how many ways I tried to phrase it. I’ve had problems like this before, and in the past (like last week) I’ve gotten quite upset.
But today, I’m looking at 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” I’m in Christ Jesus. Therefore, God wants me to always rejoice, continually pray, and give thanks even in frustrating situations—even when I can’t get the help I think I need. This is an opportunity to let the Holy Spirit bear fruit in me—patience and self-control specifically. I can choose to rejoice, pray, and give thanks. I could pray, “Lord, please help me to let go of my old ways and be renewed in Christ-likeness. Thank You for this chance to grow.”
Ephesians 4:22-24 “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
(Both quotes NIV)
One of my goals this year is to learn to listen better—especially to God. The following reminded me of my need to work toward this goal.
At a family holiday gathering, one of the exhausted children whined for his father’s attention. All the adults, including his father, were busy with other pursuits. While I worked on a craft project, the Holy Spirit nudged me to help the child. I thought, “I’d comfort the boy, but I don’t know what to do. My attention or attempts to comfort would only get him more upset because I’m a rather distant relative.”
So I asked God what I could do, but I kept on working on my craft instead of stopping to listen. After a few minutes I got an idea of what to do. By that time, however, the child had sat down on the couch and fallen asleep.
By being too busy to listen to our Father, I missed an opportunity to obey Him and perhaps become less distant to my young relative. Maybe I can learn from this experience to stop and listen next time the Holy Spirit nudges.
“…Today when you hear his voice, don’t harden your hearts as Israel did when they rebelled.” -Hebrews 3:15 New Living Translation
Verses from Psalm 86: 1-5, 8, 12-13, New International Version, with my thoughts:
1. Hear me, Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. Am I poor and needy? Maybe not financially since any American is rich compared to most people in other parts of the world. But I am spiritually poor when my faith is small and I get discouraged. I’m needy because I am a broken person living in a broken world and both body and soul can be wounded and/or knocked off balance.
2. Guard my life, for I am faithful to You; save Your servant who trusts in You. You are my God. The key to receiving God’s help is for me to faithfully seek Him instead of other answers and to trust His power and care. I will have no other gods besides the living God, Almighty Maker of heaven and earth. I will be faithful to You, Lord.
3. Have mercy on me, Lord, for I call to You all day long. I will be persistent and patient in prayer.
4. Bring joy to Your servant, Lord, for I put my trust in You. I will trust in You, Lord, with all my heart and not lean on my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). (In Your presence is fullness of joy—from Psalm 16:11.)
5. You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to You. Thank You, Lord, that You abound in love to me as I call on You.
8. Among the gods, there is none like You, Lord; no deeds can compare with Yours. For example, what other god could cause a dead stick to bud, blossom, and bear almonds as You did with Aaron’s staff?
12-13. I will praise You, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify Your name forever. 13 For great is Your love toward me. You have delivered me from the depths, from the realm of the dead. Yes, I will glorify Your name forever and praise You with all my heart, Lord, for great is Your love for me!
(Image from Pinterest)
The Commander of the Lord’s army gave Joshua instructions for conquering Jericho. All the soldiers, as well as seven priests carrying trumpets, were to march around the city once a day for six days. The Ark of the Covenant (representing God’s presence) was to be carried behind the priests. On the seventh day, they were to march around seven times, the priests would blow the trumpets, and everyone would shout. The walls would fall, and the city could be overcome.
So was it the marching, the trumpets sounding, or the shouting that brought the walls down? Or all three? I believe that the obedience of Joshua and the Israelites opened the way for God’s powerful Spirit to destroy the walls. Zechariah 4:6 says regarding Zerubbabel’s work on rebuilding the temple, “’Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.”
When I encounter seeming impossibilities, I need to listen to the Lord and obey Him completely. That will open the way for God to accomplish His purposes in and through me. Those who wait on the Lord renew their strength (Isaiah 40:31). Lord, please teach me to wait to hear and then obey. Amen.
John 15:4-5, 7-8 NKJV “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. …7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit….”
If I live in Jesus and He in me, then His Spirit can produce much fruit in me. (The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control—Galatians 5:22.) Without Christ I can’t produce these things in myself. In fact, it looks like (from John 15:5) I can’t do anything of lasting value without Christ’s abiding in me and I in Him.
Then John 15:7 says that if we abide in Christ, and His words live in us, we can ask what we desire, and it will be done. But as I look at verse 8 along with this one, I think that this “what we desire” is more about bearing fruit for God’s glory than about things we might want for ourselves or others Abiding in Christ and He in us and His Word living in us will help us stay on the right track.
Living in Jesus
Living in Your presence, Lord Jesus,
Your Word living in me—
Your blessed Holy Spirit
Breaking the chains—set this captive free.
Speaking Your Word to my spirit,
You opened my blinded eyes.
Your love and grace are amazing.
Your Word in our hearts makes us wise.
Your kindnesses outnumber my counting.
Your goodness outstretches our reach.
Oceans of love you pour on us.
Your good ways, to us You will teach.
At a state park recently I took a morning walk among the trees. It had rained the night before, and I saw a stream flowing over large rocks making a couple of delightful cascades, and water pooled in a few low places.
It inspired me to pray, Father God, I love and worship You as Creator of everything. How faithful and merciful You are! Your Spirit is like a mighty river. May I be like a rock pool through which Your Holy Spirit flows, coming in at the depths of my heart and flowing over the top of my life. Let it wash away all the regrets and memories of failures from the past—even from yesterday. Please wash away any sadness or hopelessness that lingers. Stir up bad attitudes and ugliness that keep me from shining Your light in the darkness so I can repent and be clean. Break down any barriers that prevent Your love from filling my heart and flowing out to others. Amen.
Jesus said in John 7:37-38, “…Anyone who is thirsty may come to me! Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.” —New Living Translation
In Ephesians 3:14-21, Paul says that he prays for believers “16 that [God] would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height — 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21 to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.”
(New King James Version)
Verse 20 is often quoted in assurance of God’s ability to answer some request. But I’m thinking it applies more to the context in verses 16-19 than I’ve really considered before. God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above—
- Strengthening our inner man through His Spirit
- Christ dwelling in our hearts through faith
- Rooting and grounding us in love so we can comprehend the extent of Christ’s love
- Our knowing from experience His love (which is really beyond understanding)
- Our being filled with all the fullness of God
These were the things Paul prayed for the Ephesians, and it’s a wonderful prayer for us followers of Christ to pray for one another. Paul is saying that all glory belongs to God because He can do all this by His power working in the believers, and He can do far more besides.
“Sensible people keep their eyes glued on wisdom, but a fool’s eyes wander to the ends of the earth.” (Proverbs 17:24) I do want to be sensible and keep my eyes glued on wisdom. O Holy Spirit, please keep reminding me!
“Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.” (Philippians 4:8) I learned this Bible verse years ago, but I still have trouble putting it into practice. Help, Lord!
I’ve heard many times that change is part of life, but I guess I thought it was true for everyone but me. For too long I’ve clung to what once was and won’t be again. If I keep wishing for what used to be, I’ll miss out on life today. Paul focused on forgetting the past, looking ahead, and then pressing on toward the end of the race so he could receive the heavenly prize for which God calls us through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14). Only God and His Word remain forever. He never changes. Lord, You are always faithful. I want to let go of the past and also to hold loosely to the present. Because of Your grace, I can, and I will. Please show me more of how to keep my mind anchored in You and keep my eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith. Amen. (See Isaiah 26:3 and Hebrews 12:2)
“A house is built by wisdom and becomes strong through good sense. Through knowledge its rooms are filled with all sorts of precious riches and valuables.” (Proverbs 24:3-4)
Dear Father, please help me build my spiritual house with wisdom on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ. Let me strengthen it with the good sense to focus on You and go Your way, not mine. And may I fill its rooms with valuables by getting to know You better and better. Amen.
(Scripture quotes are from the New Living Translation ®, copyright © 1996, 2004 by Tyndale Charitable Trust. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.)
Matthew 13:1-23 gives the parable of the kingdom of heaven being like the farmer who sowed seed into 4 types of soil. Thinking of this parable, I make my prayer:
Father, I pray that You would help me get rid of the weeds and thorns in my heart that keep me from being fruitful. Please break up the rocky places and deepen the soil of my heart so Your Word can take root and grow there. Where habitual thoughts and misunderstandings have worn paths in my soul, let Your Holy Spirit plow up the hardened ground.
Then my life will be fruitful—bringing honor and glory to You when I respond to people and situations with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5:22-23)
O Father God, please guide me and let Your Spirit make us one.
Holy Spirit, live inside me, for You give strength ‘til day is done.
Jesus, help me walk close beside You unto heaven at setting sun.