Category Archives: Prayer

How Christians Can Pray for Muslims During Ramadan

As Muslims around the world observe Ramadan, Christians should cry out to the true God of heaven on their behalf.

As Muslims around the world observe Ramadan, Christians should cry out to the true God of heaven on their behalf.

Many of us have Muslim friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers we hope to see trust in Jesus. We know they consider Jesus a prophet, but we long to see them believe in Him as their Lord and Savior. As Ramadan approaches, we are provided with a fresh opportunity to pray for them and hopefully engage with them in spiritual conversation.

What is Ramadan?

On the evening of Sunday, June 5, 2016, billions of Muslims around the world will begin observing Ramadan. Ramadan is the 9th month of the Islamic lunar calendar and is considered the holiest month of the year for Muslims.

The observance of Ramadan is one of the 5 Pillars of the Islamic faith, which requires all Muslims who are physically able to fast each day of the month, from sunrise to sunset.

This time of fasting from food, drink, and other physical needs is intended to purify the soul, practice self-restraint, and refocus one’s devotion to their god, Allah. This is also a time when many Muslims increase their alms giving to the poor, which is another of the 5 Pillars of their faith.

The evenings are spent enjoying time with family and community meals, engaging in prayer and spiritual reflection, and reading from the Quran. The observance of Ramadan concludes, according to the western calendar, on the evening of Tuesday, July 5th.

How Can We Pray During Ramadan?

Father, we pray that as they set their hearts to worship their god Allah, that You might make them to “know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). Help them see that Jesus is Your eternal Son through whom they can have eternal life.

Father, we pray that as their bodies hunger and their tongues thirst, that You would show them Jesus who promised “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst” (John 6:35). Help them see the insufficiency of their works and lead them to hunger and thirst for the righteousness that only Jesus can give.

Father, we pray that as they practice self-restraint that You would show them Jesus who, before He was crucified for sinners, denied Himself and “prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from Me. Yet not as I will, but as You will’” (Matthew 26:39). Help them believe that He truly died on the cross and drank fully from the cup of Your wrath.

Father, we pray that as they give alms to the poor that You would show them Jesus who “though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Help them see and treasure the eternal glory of Your Son Jesus.

Father, we pray that as they gather together to feast in the evening, that You would show them Jesus who invites sinners of all sorts to abandon their false gods and by faith join “those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Revelation 16:9). Show them the resurrected and ascended King of Glory who desires them to draw near to Him in faith.

Father, we pray that you would give Your church love for Muslims across the world. Make us like Jesus who “felt compassion for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34). Guard us from self-righteousness that would lead us to having hard hearts toward those who do not know You.

Father, we pray that you would give Your church opportunity and courage to proclaim the Gospel to Muslims throughout the world. Lift our eyes to Jesus who promised to empower us when He said “I am with you always even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). Let us not fear any consequence of faithfully taking the Gospel to those who desperately need Your grace.

 

May this season of Ramadan be marked by the faithful intercession of God’s people who long to see many Muslims come to the saving knowledge of Jesus, the Son of God.

16 Things to Pray for T4G 2016

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During this week, some ten thousand Christians from all over the world will descend upon Louisville, Kentucky. What brings them together? They come together for the Gospel. This bi-annual conference is an interdenominational gathering of Christians who certainly have various differences, but what they have in common is much greater—the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Whether you are at the conference or not, I ask you to pray for what God is doing, and will do, through this gathering of believers. To help give you some ideas of how to pray, here are sixteen suggestions.

 

  1. Pray for pastors to be encouraged.  

Pastors spend most of their lives pouring out for the good of others. This conference provides a unique opportunity for pastors to be poured into. Pray that weary pastors would be encouraged by the fellowship and instruction they receive.

 

  1. Pray for the speakers to have power.

The speakers at T4G are some of the most gifted pastor-teachers in the world. But they are just men. They struggle with the same things everyone else does. So pray that God would give them strength in their weaknesses and that He would speak powerfully through each of them for His glory and the good of all who hear their messages.

 

  1. Pray for Gospel witness in the community.

As these many Christians come into the city, they come in contact with hundreds of cabdrivers, restaurant servers, hotel employees, protestors, and business owners. Pray that Christians would embody the Gospel they come together to celebrate by being good tippers, kind with their words, and not demanding on those who serve them. Pray this kindness would open doors for Gospel conversations and for many to come to know the Lord.

 

  1. Pray for the singing.

 One of the most unique things about this gathering is the singing. Try to imagine ten thousand unified voices singing about the wonders of God’s mercy to us in Jesus. Pray for believers to not only sing with hearts of faith, but also to be encouraged by the chorus of voices proclaiming the glories of our heavenly King.

 

  1. Pray for friendships to be born.

This conference was birthed out of friendship among the speakers. And this is one of the main reasons they put on the conference. Pray that God would kindle relationships among like-minded brothers who would be able to develop life-long friendships in Christ.

 

  1.  Pray for wisdom in partnerships.

This conference affords the opportunity for ministry leaders from all over the world to spend time together to pray, dream, plan, and orchestrate great things for the Kingdom of God. Plead that God would help His people have wisdom about ways they can work together for the spread of His glory among the nations.

 

  1. Pray for sisters to be strengthened

T4G is not a men’s conference, but because it is aimed at pastors, a large percentage of the attendees are men. But there are many sisters in Christ here who are in need of your prayers. Ask that God would build them up through His word so they can go back strengthened to bless their churches, families, and communities.

 

  1. Pray for believers to be protected.

Satan hates Jesus and He hates God’s children. Pray that his sinister schemes to hinder Gospel work would be thwarted. Pray for protection from lust and pride and comparison and envy and discouragement and whatever other fiery darts he will launch at the hearts of those who have come.

 

9.  Pray for the families of attendees. 

Most of the people in attendance leave wives and children behind at home. This can be a strain on many families who covet your prayers. Ask the Lord to give strength to wives and mothers, for children to be obedient and not get sick, and for all other chaos on the home front to be held to a minimum.

 

  1. Pray for the logistics.

To pull off a gathering of ten thousand people, you need a logistics miracle. Pray for disasters and distractions to be at a minimal and that everything from registration, to sound, to security, to book store stocking, to meals and beyond to go smoothly.

 

  1. Pray for the volunteers.

Over three hundred people travel to this conference, not simply to be served by the Word, but to serve those who are coming to hear the Word. Pray for them to serve others with the joy of Christ.

 

  1. Pray for churches to be edified. 

Hundreds upon hundreds of local churches have pastors or members in attendance this week. Pray for these congregations to be edified by those who will return with fresh vigor. Pray for delight in Jesus to spread among these churches and for great revival to occur among God’s people because of what happens here.

 

  1. Pray for unity.

At a conference where there is such a diverse group of believers, there is always opportunity for the evil one to stir up squabbles. Pray for brothers and sisters to humbly hold their convictions and aim to make much of Jesus who is the hope of all believers.

 

  1. Pray for people to love the Word.

This year’s conference focuses on the glory of the Protestant Reformation. This Reformation was birthed when God stirred a fresh understanding of His Word among His people. Pray that as the Word is preached and read and sang, that the Holy Spirit would stoke fresh fires of love for the Scriptures in the hearts of His people.

 

  1. Pray for attendees to long for heaven.

One of my favorite parts about the conference is seeing old friends. I delight in seeing their smiles, hearing their stories, and in sharing meals together. But then, we are forced to say good-bye. Some will leave early because of unplanned tragedies, and others will head home as they had planned. But there is something that saying sad “good-byes” does for us…It makes us long for that Land where we will never say good-bye again. Pray that God would use T4G to cultivate a longing for heaven where we will be gathered together once and for all with our heavenly Father. O Come Lord Jesus! Come!

 

  1. Pray for the Great Commission to be aided.

Between now and that Great Day when faith will be made sight, we have been called to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. Pray that God would not allow this to just be another conference where we take home our books and notes and nothing changes. But rather, ask that God would use all the equipping and teaching and singing and planning to produce a movement of Spirit-empowered people who risk everything so that the Good News about Jesus will be taken to those who have never heard.

 

“I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” Romans 1:16

 

Daddy, Are They Going To Kill The Christians?

 

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“Daddy, are they going to kill the Christians?”

My four-year-old son’s question broke the silence during our trip to school.

Earlier that morning he heard me praying for the 90 Assyrian Christians ISIS soldiers kidnapped from their homes during morning raids on their villages. He could tell I was distraught and began to ask questions.

“What happened to the Christians, daddy?”

I told him there are bad people in another part of the world who hate Christians and are trying to hurt them.

“Why do they want to hurt them?” he asked.

I explained that some people don’t like Christians because they follow Jesus. Jesus is the King of the world and people don’t like having a King ruling over them, so they sin by turning away from Jesus. Jesus tells us that if we are going to follow Him, some people won’t like us either (John 15:20).

He asked a few more questions and then we went back to our morning routine. But, during the ride to school, he broke the silence with the question that couldn’t escape his little heart,

“Daddy, are they going to kill the Christians?”

I told him they might. Many other Christians have already died because they follow Jesus. This happens all over the world to Jesus’ people.

“Daddy, what is Jesus going to do about it?”

These are the moments Christian parents know are important. When a child’s heart is stirred and their mind searches for answers. It’s also times like these that parents are pressed to find simple words to explain complex realities.

I told him that Jesus is going to save some of the people who hurt the Christians and He is going to stop some of the others.

“Why would Jesus want to save them?”

His perception caught me off guard. I knew the right answer, but I felt the same tension my son felt in his heart.

Why would God do such a thing as save ISIS soldiers?

Why would God save people that slay His bride?

Why would God redeem sinners who rape His children?

Why would God give mercy to villains when they withhold mercy from His people?

I told him it is because God is not like us. God is a God who loves His enemies and does good to all people, even evil people (Matthew 5:43-48). God doesn’t delight in evil people perishing, but loves to see them be saved (Ezekiel 18:31-32, 33:11; 1 Timothy 2:3-4). I told him that Jesus loved people in that way, including him and me. That is why Jesus died and rose—to rescue us from our sins (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

In that moment I was sobered by my son’s child-like wonder. Trying to find clear and simple words to help his four-year-old mind process such mysterious love pressed me in a sweet and uncomfortable way.

What wonder it is to consider that Jesus left a world filled with voices crying “Holy! Holy! Holy!” to enter into our world filled with voices that cry out “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” for one reason—to glorify His name by saving sinners (Isaiah 6:4; Matthew 27:22-23; 1 Peter 3:18; 1 John 4:9-10).

On the cross God shows us that He is a God who loves His enemies and is willing to shed His blood for those who shed His (Romans 5:8). There He put on display His compassion for compassionless killers (Psalm 103:8). What kind of love is that? It is amazing love. Worthy of our trust. Worthy of our lives.

As my son hopped out of the car and scurried off to class, I was moved by praise and to prayer.

 

Praise and a Prayer

While I’m grieved that my son has to ask those kinds of questions, I praise God that He does. We live in a world of brokenness and pain, and to watch him enter in is difficult to observe. But while that is true, I am also grateful that my son has an opportunity to consider the cost of following Christ.

In God’s perfect plan, he is learning what it means to be a Christian in a sobering time in history. Christians have been laying down their lives for thousands of years, but the modern day assault by Islamic radicals feels unique—and shows no signs of slowing down.

I praise God that my son and his siblings face the call of Christ in a context that will help him to see the cost more clearly. I pray that He will see the immeasurable value of having a Savior who does not flee from us when we are in trouble or are in danger. In fact, if the incarnation teaches us anything, it teaches us that God moves toward our danger and toward our trouble.

I praise God that this is the Savior I can call my son to follow—no matter what it might cost him.

 

Father, we pray for our brothers and sisters who are suffering around the world. Give them strength to trust you as so many of them are being asked to surrender their lives for Your Name’s sake. Give them strength to endure to the end so they might be saved.

We also pray that we would be sobered and count the cost of what it means to follow Christ. We pray that our children and our churches would learn from our persecuted brothers and sisters who are teaching us what it means to take up the cross of Jesus.

 Might you give us courage and wisdom to follow their example of faith, trusting that You are the Rewarder of those who seek You (Hebrews 11:6). And Father, I ask for my son, that you might save his soul and make him a man, who like those captured Christians, the world is not worthy of (Hebrews 11:39-40). Spare us from suffering, but if not, give us grace to endure it in a way that brings you honor.

 

Come Lord Jesus, come.

 

Precious and Very Great Promises: Truth for the Journey

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“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” 2 Peter 1:3-4

During this Sunday’s sermon we considered this text and how God’s precious promises are the means by which we grow in godliness and escape the world’s corruption. You can listen to that message here if you’d like.

 

In the late 1670’s John Bunyan penned The Pilgrim’s Progress during his imprisonment in the Bedfordshire prison. For good reason, this book is the second most widely read book in history behind the Bible.

The story, which is an allegory of the Christian life, is a captivating tale about a man named Christian, who is traveling from the City of Destruction (the world) to the Celestial City (heaven). At one point in the journey, he and a friend named “Hopeful” are taken captive by the “Giant Despair.” He locks them for half a week in the dungeon of “Doubting-castle.”

During their time in the dungeon they were beaten, tempted to surrender their faith, and even commanded to take their lives by suicide. Things grew bleak for Christian and Hopeful, until they began to pray and Christian remembered…

“What a fool I have been, to lie like this in a stinking dungeon, when I could have just as well walked free. In my chest pocket I have a key called Promise that will, I am thoroughly persuaded, open any lock in Doubting-Castle.” “Then,” said Hopeful, “that is good news. My good brother, do immediately take it out of your chest pocket and try it.” Then Christian took the key from his chest and began to try the lock of the dungeon door; and as he turned the key, the bolt unlocked and the door flew open with ease, so that Christian and Hopeful immediately came out.”

Bunyan knew that God’s promises were the key that granted God’s people freedom from the slavery of sin and circumstance. Because of their power, he believed they were more valuable than any treasure in the world.

In Sighs from Hell, Bunyan says,“I tell thee, friend, there are some promises that the Lord hath helped me to lay hold of Jesus Christ through and by, that I would not have out of the Bible for as much gold and silver as can lie between York and London piled up to the stars because through them Christ is pleased by His Spirit to convey comfort to my soul.”

Do you have a precious promise like that? Do you have a promise in God’s Word that is so valuable that you would not trade it for all the money in the world?

Christians are people who live on promises. We grow by promises. We are sustained by promises. We please God by trusting His promises (Hebrews 11:6).

So I must ask you, what promises are you clinging to and trusting God to prove faithful to keep?

The Certainty of God’s Promises

We have great confidence to believe God’s promises because of what He has done for us in Jesus Christ.

The Old Testament is a sweeping story of God promising time and again to send a Savior to rescue us from judgment. God kept His promise by sending Jesus to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus accomplished His work by dying on the cross and rising from the dead—just as He said He would.

God’s faithfulness to keep His word is seen most clearly in His faithfulness to give us Jesus. When God gave us Jesus He gave us everything!

The Apostle Paul says, “all the promises of God find their ‘Yes’ in Him. That is why it is through Him that we utter our Amen to God for His glory!” 2 Corinthians 1:20. Does God promise you something? Then He says “Yes and Amen” when we ask Him to prove true to His word. How can we be so sure of this? Because Romans 8:32 reminds us that “He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?”

When Jesus died on the cross, He not only received the punishment we deserve for our sin, but He also purchased every promise that God ever made His people. This means that if we are in Christ, we can claim and cling to God’s promises because He has purchased them with His blood.

Precious and Inexhaustible Promises

As Christians, we are all part of our own “pilgrim’s progress” toward the Celestial City. As we take steps of faith toward our heavenly home, we need promises to empower our souls and unlock doors of opposition in our own Doubting Castles.

What follows are a limited list of promises that we can claim and cling to as we face trials and temptations on our way to our heavenly home. These promises do not tarnish or fade, so use them and use them again. Or as the witty Charles Spurgeon once observed, “Some say ‘You can’t have your cake and eat it too.’ It’s not so with God’s comforts. You can enjoy a promise and still have it.”

This means that when you read God’s Word, you are going hunting for invaluable and inexhaustible treasure that you can have and hold and believe for the entire journey Home.

75 Promises for the Journey Home

What follows are just a sampling of God’s glorious promises that He has given to His people. Take these, consider them, and ask God to use them to stir your faith in Him.

When your sins haunt you, remember that in Christ, God has promised to forgive and forget them…

  • “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
  • “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned…” John 3:18
  • “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1
  • “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” Isaiah 1:18
  • “…I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” Jeremiah 31:34
  • “…as far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.” Psalm 103:13
  • “…in love You have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for You have cast all my sins behind Your back.” Isaiah 38:17

When you wonder if God will be faithful to keep you through all your trials, remember…

  • “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” John 6:37
  • “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:28
  • “He who began a good work in you will complete it unto the day of Christ” Philippians 1:6
  • “He is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” Hebrews 7:25

When you feel dry and weary and desperately need encouragement to draw near to God, recall these invitations…

  • “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?…” Isaiah 55:1–3 (cf. Rev.22:17)
  • “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
  • “…God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God…casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:5–7
  • “…whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:14

When you pray, you do so believing that God hears and answers your prayers…

  • “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” Matthew 7:7
  • “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” John 14:13
  • “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16

When you lack wisdom to make decisions concerning the future…

  • “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths.” Proverbs 3:5–6
  • “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” Psalm 32:8 
  • “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” James 1:5

When you feel fearful to share the Gospel, remember that you are not alone as you go…

  • “…I am with you always until the end of the age” Matthew 28:20
  • “…you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses…” Acts 1:8

When you preach or minister to people, take confidence in God’s promises…

  • “My word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11
  • “…I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18
  • “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:7–9

As you strive to serve God and grow in holiness, rest in the promise that He supplies your strength

  • “As your days so shall your strength be.” Deuteronomy 33:25
  • “Work out your own salvation…for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12–13 (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:10; Colossians 1:29)
  • “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13
  • “Whoever serves, let him serve as one who serves by the strength that God supplies.” 1 Peter 4:11
  •  “My grace is sufficient for you, My power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

When you go to work and feel like what you are doing is meaningless, remember that…

  • “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” Colossians 3:23–24
  • “Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.” Ephesians 6:5–8

When you find yourself filled with fear and anxiety, pursue peace by remembering God’s promises…

  • “…fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
  • “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
  •  “…do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on…Look at the birds of the air…your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?…Consider the lilies of the field…if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious…your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:25-33

When you feel like the assaults of temptation are too alluring to resist, remember…

  • “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
  • “…the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one.” 2 Thessalonians 3:3
  • “…because [Jesus] has suffered when tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.” Hebrews 2:18

When your unfaithfulness leaves you despairing, remember that His faithfulness is our promised hope…

  • “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23
  • “…if we are faithless, He remains faithful— for He cannot deny Himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13

When you are overcome with anger, let promises give you strength to trust God…

  • “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” Romans 12:19
  • “The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies. The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.” Nahum 1:2–3

When you feel tempted to fear people and their opinions, flee to God and trust in His promises…

  • “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.” Proverbs 29:25
  • “Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord…Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.” Jeremiah 17:5–7
  • “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation…Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God…” Psalm 146:3–5
  • “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” Psalm 34:8

When lust promises you sensual satisfaction, fight its lies with faithful promises of a better fulfillment…

  • “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11
  • “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6
  • “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8

Have you fallen into great sin?…then fall upon the promises about our great Savior…

  • “My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate w/ the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” 1 John 2:1
  • “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” Romans 8:34
  • “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” Hebrews 7:25 

Are you broken over your sin or circumstances?…God promises His healing presence

  • “the Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18
  • “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Psalm 51:17
  • “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” Psalm 147:3

Are you struggling to be content with what God has given you?…He promises perfect provision…

  • “…be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
  • “…the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11
  • “…God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19

As you look toward the day of your death, take encouragement from these certain words…

  • “Even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.” Isaiah 46:4
  • “…if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also…I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” John 14:3, 18
  • “absent from body is present w/ the Lord” 2 Corinthians 2:5
  • “He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 25:8
  • “When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”…thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:54-58

God promises that the suffering and persecution we face in this life will one day be eclipsed by glory…

  • “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” Matthew 5:11-12
  • “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18
  • “…this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17
  • “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

If the Lord calls you to face trial or martyrdom for His Name, He gives you promises to carry with you…

  • “…when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.” Luke 12:11–12
  • “do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10:28 (cf. Isaiah 51:12-16)
  • “…If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:31-39

When you become tempted to think that persevering in faith isn’t possible, take heart in these promises…

  • “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:23–24
  • “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.” Jude 24–25

As you take each stride in faith toward heaven, be moved by the promised eternal day that awaits you…

  • “according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” 2 Peter 3:13
  • “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Matthew 25:34
  • “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 4He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” 5And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  Revelation 21:1–5

 

Thanks to John Piper for his biography on John Bunyan and his book Future Grace. Both have blessed my life and this post. 

Want Some More Promises?

Five Promises for Your Bible Reading and Prayer – John Piper

How to Find Strength in the Strength of God – John Piper

Which Promises Are For Me? – Jen Wilkin

Future Grace (book) – John Piper

Using God’s Truth to Battle the Tempter’s Lies – Garrett Kell

Is Jeremiah 29:11 a Promise for Christians? – John Piper

Do Promises in the Psalms Apply to Me? – John Piper

When I Feel Afraid – Leeann Stiles

A Summary of How to Kill Sin (sermon) – Tim Conway

Purity Among God’s People – Fighting Sexual Sin with God’s Promises (sermon) – Garrett Kell

 

Should We Pray for God to Judge ISIS Terrorists? Imprecatory Prayers and the Christian

Imprecatory Storm 2

 

“Pour out Your indignation upon them, and let Your burning anger overtake them…add to them punishment upon punishment; may they have no acquittal from You. Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; let them not be enrolled among the righteous.” Psalm 69:24

“Wicked and deceitful mouths are opened against me…they…attack me…let him come forth guilty; let his prayer be counted as sin! May his days be few…may his children be fatherless and his wife a widow! May his children wander about and beg…let there be none to extend kindness to him…let curses come upon him!” Psalm 109:1-17

 

Passages like these have long been difficult for me. The first time I read one as a new believer I had to check the cover of my book to make sure I was still reading the Bible. Those prayers seemed so unlike the prayers Jesus taught us to pray.

I was comforted when I learned that Charles Spurgeon voiced similar discomfort in his commentary on Psalm 109 “Truly this is one of the hard places of Scripture, a passage which the soul trembles to read; yet as it is a Psalm unto God, and given by inspiration, it is not ours to sit in judgment upon it, but to bow our ear to what God the Lord would speak to us therein.”

Though these passages are difficult to grapple with, they have seemed more reasonable as we have come face to face with the pure evil of the ISIS militants who are ravaging Christians and non-Christians in and around the world.

These supposed ambassadors of god behead journalists on camera to taunt their families and gain political leverage. They kidnap young girls to rape, torture, and impregnate them for the glory of a false god. They tear young boys from the arms of their parents to brainwash them and force them to join their ranks as merciless killers. They attack peaceful people going about their daily lives. These terrorists are wicked and have no intentions of stopping their bloodthirsty conquest until they have conquered the world.

As I hear again and again of their merciless violence, I am deeply grieved and moved to prayer.

 

We Must Pray

We must pray for those who are suffering—both Christian and non-Christian. Consider how to here.

We must also pray for God to intervene. “Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end…” (Psalm 7:9).

Few would argue against asking God to stop these violent people. But can we go further in our prayers?

Can we pray the prayer of Asaph in Psalm 74:10–11 “How long, O God, is the foe to scoff? Is the enemy to revile Your name forever? Why do You hold back Your hand, Your right hand? Take it from the fold of Your garment and destroy them!”

Make them stop scoffing? Yes!

Why don’t You do something? Yes.

Pull out Your fist and drive it into their nose? Yes?

Destroy them….?

How far can New Testament Christians go in their prayers against the wicked men who ravage God’s people and their neighbors?

 

Prayers for Punishment

The “Imprecatory Psalms,” as they are called, are prayers in which imprecations (curses) are called down upon uniquely evil men. The most prominent imprecatory psalms are Psalm 35, 58, 59, 69, 109, but the language of calling for punishment on evil people is sprinkled throughout the Old Testament psalms and prophets (cf. Jeremiah 18:19-23).

Though Old Testament theology of the afterlife is a bit murkier than what we find in the New Testament, we must know that this kind of prayer is not just a prayer for God’s enemies to be stopped. This is a prayer for God to kill them. This is very serious because the Bible is clear that if someone dies as God’s unrepentant enemy, they will forever be under the wrath of God in hell (John 3:36; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10; Revelation 14:11).

Can Christians pray for this? Can Christians pray imprecatory prayers against evil people in the same way David and Asaph prayed?

Some answer this question with a “no” by saying that these prayers were only permitted in the Old Testament and in their unique historical contexts. We certainly acknowledge that it is dangerous to jump from King David’s divinely inspired prayers to our personal application. We must look to Christ as the fulfillment of these psalms and then seek to apply them. This does not however mean that there is no application.

One relevant passage is Luke 9:51-56 where we find James and John coming from a city that rejected the Gospel and they asked Jesus “Lord, do you want us to tell fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” Jesus “turned and rebuked them.” His rebuke certainly wasn’t because He was opposed to bringing judgment on unrepentant sinners (Luke 19:27), but likely because their first impulse was punishment rather than patient hope for repentance.

But I don’t think that means calls for punishment are always unacceptable.

In the New Testament, we see the imprecatory psalms quoted by Jesus (Psalm 69:9 in John 2:17 and Psalm 35:19 / 69:4 in John 15:25), Luke (Psalm 69:25 and 109:8 in Acts 1:20) and Paul (Psalm 69 in Romans 11:9-10, 15:3). Jesus also makes provision in “The Lord’s Prayer” for us to ask God for His kingdom to come, which includes destroying the godless kingdoms of this world (Matthew 6:10).

And most clearly, we see Christian martyrs pleading for justice to fall on those who took their lives in Revelation 6:9-11 “When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?11Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.”

How amazing is it that slain saints in heaven are not praying for God to give mercy to their killers, but they are calling for justice? This kind of prayer reminds us that God can be trusted to bring justice on the wicked. This is a good thing, and He will be just as glorified in bringing justice against sinners as He will be in extending mercy to them (Romans 9:13-23). Does this mean we should be excited to pray for wrath to fall on terrorists? No, I don’t think so.

 

Prayers for Mercy

Jesus taught us many revolutionary truths, one of them being that we are to “love your enemies and do good to those who hate you, bless those who cruse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:27-28). He also commanded us to “pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44) and then modeled it when He prayed “Father, forgive them” while hanging on the cross (Luke 23:34).

This call for followers of Jesus to ask God to give mercy to their enemies is echoed in Romans 12:14 where Paul says “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.” This of course doesn’t mean Christians don’t care about evil, but rather we choose to “never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Romans 12:19; cf. 2 Timothy 4:14).

Does this mean Christians should only pray prayers of mercy and never prayers for judgment? No, I don’t think so.

 

How Prayers for Punishment and Mercy Meet

How should we pray about extraordinarily violent and wicked people like ISIS terrorists? Should we pray for mercy or for punishment?

1.  Pray first and enduringly for mercy.

Jesus meant what He said when He told us to pray for our enemies. We are to perseveringly ask the Lord to shower mercy on these people. David, who wrote many of the imprecatory prayers, showed mercy to his enemies (Psalm 35:12-14). And Jesus who fulfilled the imprecatory prayers certainly did.

In fact, through His death on the cross, Jesus received the imprecations (curses) that His enemies deserved. As Galatians 3:13 reminds us “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” What a glorious thought! Jesus took on Himself the curse of God’s wrath that sinners deserved so that those who would repent and believe in Him might receive mercy rather than punishment.

This means that as Christians, we must first and foremost pray for violent, evil, brutal barbarians to be awakened from their sin and made alive in Christ. We must plead for savages to know salvation.

Is that difficult for you to ask of the Lord? It is for me. But we must seek grace here. We must plead for God to guard us from falling into the same sin that led Jonah to flee from God when he was asked to proclaim the Gospel to a people just as wicked as modern day ISIS terrorists. Jonah Himself said “O Lord…that is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster” (Jonah 4:2).

Let us not despise seeing sinners receive mercy, no matter what they have done. We would do well to remember here that the Apostle Paul was once a terrorist on his way to kill Christians when Jesus intervened and extended him mercy. May He do that to for members of ISIS. May He transform not just one heart, but bring them all to repentance! He is able to do that, just ask ancient Nineveh (Jonah 3).

2.  Be slow to pray prayers for punishment.

While we pray for mercy to come to sinners, we also pray for justice to come. The prayer for punishment should likely be one that is rarely used, and when it is used, used with great caution.

Some of us will be tempted to rush into this prayer without first pleading for mercy for our enemies. I trust Jesus would rebuke us as He did James and John (Luke 9:55). One way to humble our heart is to ask God to help us understand the depths of grace we have received from Christ.

We must remember that we who are in Christ were once blind in our sin. We must remember that the only reason we aren’t ISIS terrorists is because of the mercy of God (cf. Genesis 20:6). Reflect upon God’s mercy to you before you pray for His punishment to fall on others.

Though we should be slow to pray for God to destroy His enemies, there are extreme cases that may call for it. In a brief video titled Should Christians Pray Imprecatory Prayers John Piper said “I think I can imagine circumstances where…some contemporary form of the Gestapo is sweeping through your neighborhood. And is in the most brutal way wiping people out and killing people—I think “God stop them! Do whatever you have to do, stop them!…I want to say there may be a time when you are calling down God’s judgment on someone.”

I feel confident to say that unique events in history, like what we are seeing today in Iraq and Syria, can lead us to say “Lord, save them or stop them…but something has to happen. Convert them or kill them O God.”

I think this kind of prayer is a last resort. We are never to take vengeance into our own hands (Matthew 26:52; Romans 12:19), but plead for mercy (Matthew 5:44) and plead for justice (Revelation 6:9-11) knowing that if they will not repent, they will receive the justice of God’s wrath for eternity in hell. This kind of prayer flows not from a heart of hatred, but from one that knows no other possible way for these warriors to be stopped.

3.  Guard your heart when praying for punishment.

Praying prayers for punishment should never be motivated by vindictiveness. We do not pray as vengeful hatemongers. Rather, we pray as people who need God to move in mercy—or in justice.

If we do pray these prayers, I do not recommend naming names in prayers, though calling for groups, like ISIS to be removed from existence is, I think, acceptable.

To help guard our hearts from a dangerous posture of hate, we should allow our prayers to be guided by truths from God’s Word. Here are some examples:

  • Father, honor your Name that it may no longer be mocked by these evil men. Give them mercy or give them justice, but act for Your Name sake (Psalm 10:11, 74:10, 139:19-22; Micah 7:10).
  • Father, let the world see Your justice and do not allow evil to strut around any longer (Psalm 58:10-11).
  • Father, stop these wicked men that worship of You might be unhindered and uncorrupted (Psalm 69:9; John 2:13-17).
  • Father, convert or crush these men that You might be praised for the way You deliver Your people (Psalm 7:17, 35:18, 28).
  • Father, make Your people know that you are faithful to defend them so they will not lose heart (Psalm 69:6).
  • Father, defeat Your enemies so they may see that You alone are worthy of worship (Psalm 83:16–18).

 

Whether you agree with my conclusions or not, we must all remain vigilant in prayer. We must plead for God to intervene. As we do this, we do not pray hopelessly because we know that one day soon the Lord will return to rescue those who have hoped in Him (2 Timothy 4:8), raise those who have died in faith (1 Corinthians 15:51-55), and crush all those who have opposed Him (Revelation 19:11-21).

 

Come Lord Jesus, come.

 

Other resources for your study:

  • John Piper has an excellent message on Psalm 69. In the end, he counsels us not to pray imprecatory prayers, but has excellent Christ-centered application.
  • J. Carl Laney wrote a helpful scholarly article in Bibliotheca Sacra entitled “A Fresh Look at the Imprecatory Psalms.”
  • Sam Storms gives straight-forward pastoral counsel about these psalms in his article “Those Troubling Psalms of Imprecation.”
  • Bob Deffinbaugh’s exposition of Psalm 109 gives a thorough consideration of imprecatory psalms and is also worth a look. He concludes that we can pray these kinds of prayers.

Divine Appointments: The Spirit is Willing But the Schedule is Tight

Use me hands

“Pray that God would set up divine appointments this week. Ask Him to interrupt your life and use you to talk with someone about Jesus.”

That was my final encouragement during Sunday’s message from Romans 10.

Sure enough, right after the service a young man was in our parking lot looking for someone to help him get his life on track. And sure enough there we were with four screaming kiddos in the mini-van and plans for the afternoon.

It’s moments like those that tempt me to change my prayer from “Lord, use me” to “Lord, use me when I’ve got some free time.”

Gospel ministry can be lots of things, but convenient is usually not the best way to describe it. The very fact that our interruptions are divine appointments ensures that they probably won’t fit neatly into our schedule.

So if the Spirit is willing to set up divine appointments, how should we prepare to respond—even when our schedule is full? There are no magic answers, but here are a few things to prayerfully consider:

 

1. Pray for divine appointments.

God is sovereignly working out His purposes in history. He places people where He wants them (Acts 17:26) and amazingly arranges circumstances to draw people to Himself (Acts 8:26-40). As His followers, we are to be ready, willing, and desirous to be a part of introducing people to Him (Isa. 6:8; Mt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; 2 Cor. 5:20).

Pray for God to use you. Pray for Him to use your church. Regularly pray for Him to interrupt your schedule and arrange circumstances so that you will have opportunity to speak to others about Him. Ask Him to open doors for the Word to go forth (Acts 14:27; 1 Cor. 16:9; Col. 4:2; Rev. 3:8) and for Him to open your eyes to see the appointments He is arranging.

 

2. Plan for divine answers.

When we pray, we should expect that God will answer. We serve a God who delights in finding and using available people (2 Chron. 16:9). That means that when we awake each morning, we should fully expect that the Lord of heaven will use us on earth that day for His glory. Some days this will be more obvious than others, but we should always be expectant.

My wife has long said, “every brief encounter is from the Lord.” Since there is no such thing as luck or chance, we should always remember that when we encounter the people in our family, neighbor, workplace, and at the check out counter (get off your phone) it happens because God has arranged it to happen that way.

Are you seeking open doors in conversations? Are you asking people questions about their life? Are you asking people how you can pray for them? Are you pushing on doors in relationships to see if the Lord makes one swing open? I would encourage you to be planning for the Lord to use you. Be watchful and expectant.

I know an elder and his wife who would make a crockpot meal almost every Sunday morning so they could invite people they met at church home for lunch. I’ve heard testimonies of people who sat in front of them at church and then got the invite to join them for lunch. That elder’s family was ready to be used by the Lord!

Another practical way to plan for divine answers is to stockpile resources you can give to people who might be interested in hearing more. I have copies of the Scriptures and a Gospel tract called 2 Ways to Live in my backpack when I travel, in my car, in my home office, and at the church. I also have a reading plan to give someone who shows interest in starting to read the Bible. You may not use these resources all the time, but they’re nice to have around in case the conversation gets that far.

 

3. Pray to know when you should walk away from a possible Gospel opportunity.

Jesus never lacked for opportunities to minister. But Jesus didn’t minister to every person who came to Him. There were times He said “no” to opportunities that were before Him because He had other business from the Father to attend to (Mk. 1:36-38).

Jesus did have an advantage, being omniscient and all, but the reality is that He gives us His Spirit to guide us (Jn. 16:33; Acts 8:29, 10:19, 13:2) and wisdom as we ask for it (Matt. 7:7-11; James 1:5). There are times we just aren’t able to share with people because we have other things the Lord would have us do.

For instance, we didn’t stick around and share the Gospel with the young man who was in the parking lot on Sunday after church. It just wasn’t the right time. We exchanged emails and I introduced him to a few of our other members, but it was best for me to keep the commitment I had with my family on that day. On other days, we may have invited him to lunch or I may have told the family to head home and I’d stay back to talk.

Pray for the Lord to help you walk in wisdom, and rest in the fact that Jesus is the Savior, not you.

 

4. Pray to know when your plans are getting in the way of God’s plans.

There are times when the good things we are doing are in the way of the greater things the Lord wants us to do. In Luke 9:57-62 Jesus encounters three would-be followers who when asked to follow him gave what seem like good excuses. I mean, ensuring shelter, burying a dying parent, and saying farewell to your family seem like better reasons to delay following Jesus than I usually come up with.

This passage should serve as a humbling reminder that we must not “lean on our own understanding” (Prov. 3:5-6) and prayerfully ensure that we are choosing the “better portion” (Lk. 10:38-42). We need grace to see things in our schedule that might be able to go in order to free up available time. We should be prayerful that God would cultivate a sensitive heart in us like young Samuel had (1 Sam. 3:1-11) so that if we ever sense Him calling us to do something, we will step out with expectant faith.

This is where being in loving, intentional, truth-speaking community with other believers is essential. I need people in my life to help me think through my priorities. I am not above allowing comfort and personal plans to creep in and cloud my ability to see what the Lord has set before me. Let’s help each other be attentive to divine appointments and create a culture in our churches where we are surrendered to the Lord’s call to make His name known.

 

5. Rest in God’s grace if you miss an opportunity.

We will all miss divine appointments. We are sinners who, for many reasons, are prone to have deaf ears, hardened hearts, and dulled senses. I still have instances that haunt me where I missed what appeared to be a divinely ordained opportunity to point someone towards Christ. And while we must always learn and repent when appropriate, we must also rest in the fact that God’s grace covers all our failures.

The good news of the Gospel is that Jesus died and rose for sinners, including those who miss divine appointments. So if you’ve been too busy to notice, or too fearful to speak, cast yourself upon the Lord’s matchless mercy—and get ready for the next opportunity He lays before you.

 

The Spirit is willing to use us, so draw near to the Lord and ask Him to do so. Nothing is better than having the message of God’s grace and a schedule full of divine appointments to share it with. Lord, use us!

 

 

Thanks to Blake White @ablakewhite for his tweet “the Spirit is willing but the schedule is tight” which got me thinking about this and to Tim Challies @challies for this post on getting things done that had a section on being ready for divine appointments.

 

I also want to strongly recommend Kevin DeYoung’s Crazy Busy and Matt Perman’s What’s Best Next for your reading. They are wonderful resources that will help you think well about having a full schedule for the glory of God.

 

 

 

How Dark Days Taught a Daddy to Pray

dark days

My wife and I met Cliff and Diana several summers ago at a family camp where they were vacationing with their two children. They’re a simple family who radiate contentment in Christ in a way that draws others in and puts them at ease. Cliff’s humility toward his wife and children has always been instructive and a bit convicting. Though we don’t see them often, we’ve grown to love this family as our own.

Over the past two years, Cliff and Diana have faced a heart wrenching situation with their daughter Anna who has endured tremendous suffering at the hand of a mysterious disease. At various times during this trial I’ve been able to speak with Cliff about the pain, fears and countless questions their family has faced.

As part of my preparation for a sermon on Psalm 13, I asked Cliff if he’d share with me his reflections on that passage since he and Diana have recently faced such desperate times. What follows is an excerpt from the email he sent me.

           

When Anna first started having severe stomach pain in December of 2011, I didn’t have any idea of what the next 16 months would bring.  At first, you think it’s just some virus or infection and that the doctors will be able to quickly diagnose and prescribe some medicine for it. 

When one doctor visit turned into the next, and various specialists were called in, all to no avail, it started getting more concerning.  While I prayed for Anna every day, I didn’t do much else. I was making it through on my own strength for the first 6 months. I still had work and church and other responsibilities—none of which I let “slack” during this time. 

That started to change in August of 2012 when Anna lost the ability to walk.  Let’s be honest, pain is something you can’t see.  You don’t know how much pain your child is in, especially when Anna did almost all her crying with Diana. When she could no longer walk, it became much more real for me.  I could now see that her pain was real. 

It was also during this time that Diana began to show signs of the break down that was just on the horizon. She couldn’t carry the load on her own and even things that were “simple” started becoming a challenge for her.  I began helping out more, praying more, and trying to use the wisdom God had given me in His word. 

During this time, Diana started drifting into despair.  A lot of this was caused by her thoughts about the future. She’d ask questions like “how will this affect Anna’s wedding” and “will she even be able to get married?” Now Anna was 10, so the consideration of things that were 15 years away would seem to many to be ridiculous—at least to people who hadn’t watched their daughter deteriorate so fast. 

It was during this time that scripture started playing a significant part in helping Diana and I through each day. Verses like “don’t worry about tomorrow” from Matthew 6 made more sense and prayers like “Lord, give us today our daily bread” became about all we could muster. 

Over the next month and a half, I started to help a lot more. I had to, as Diana was losing steam quickly. I spent more time with Anna, both to comfort her, and to relieve Diana of that responsibility. In hindsight, I can see that while I was looking to God, I was still trying to make it through in my own strength—I wasn’t desperate yet. 

In September, Anna couldn’t go to school because the pain was so bad.  Diana started wondering if it could possibly get any worse.  We found out it could.  In the first week of October, Anna lost the ability to see.  Her eyes became so sensitive to light (or even the thought of light), that she had to wear a blind fold during all the daylight hours. 

Having a child that can’t walk is hard. Having a child that can’t walk or see was unimaginable for us. Having no diagnosis to any of it was unbearable. Not only was Anna going down in a tail spin, now so was Diana. Nothing I could do or say could make our situation better.  It was during this time that I truly started to become desperate.  The first verses of Psalm 13 didn’t apply to me before this time.  Now I became that man who cried out “how long O Lord?”   

I watched my “average weight” wife lose dozens of pounds. I could count every rib and every vertebrae of her backbone. I watched her tremble constantly as she was unable to sleep and unable to talk coherently. This was coupled with my daughter falling into despair because she could no longer do anything normal children did. There was no running outside or swimming in the pool. Laughter was absent. All she could do was lie in bed in pain. Our world had turned black.

It was during these days and months that I would lie in Anna’s bed for hours with her, watching her crying hysterically in pain, sobbing and asking me to make the pain stop.  I cried and cried—and I prayed.  These were no longer token prayers.  These were now prayers of absolute desperation in which I was pleading and begging God to make this stop. 

These prayers weren’t fancy worded prayers, the type of stuff you hear in church.  They were the prayers of an absolutely powerless man who was helpless to do anything other than hold on to his daughter and pray.  It was also during these times that I started praying out loud with Anna. 

When the pain got so bad, and the crying so loud, and I had prayed silently for what seemed hours, I would say, “let’s pray.” Anna would quiet down some and I would pray out loud.  Since her crying subsided somewhat as she focused on what I was saying, I would pray – and pray and pray. 

It was during those prayers that Anna got to see her dad as he really is. I’m a dad that doesn’t have the strength to make it on his own.  I’m a dad that is utterly dependent upon God.  And hopefully also, a dad that has no doubts whatsoever about the reality and power of God. 

And while God never instantly healed my daughter, as I’d asked a hundred times, there were many times that Anna quieted down, the pain seemed to subside, and she was able to fall asleep. And in all honesty, in those moments of desperation, that is really what I needed, and what Anna needed most. 

Though we were in darkness together, I believe the light of God’s word gave us strength. Our family took comfort from the promises God gave us that one day all this pain will be gone, and that we will be with our Lord.  These promises shaped our prayers and stirred our faith to keep trusting for another day.

Through all this I learned to pray desperate prayers that are guided by God’s word. Many of us might think we can make it fine through life without reading the Bible daily.  That’s just not true. If God’s words hadn’t been “hidden in my heart,” I’m not sure how I would’ve been comforted in those days.  I’m grateful for the years of scripture reading and intentional memorization of God’s word, I believe God used them to sustain our family.

While we should read scripture daily to grow in our relationship with the Lord and grow as His disciple, I want to emphasize the importance of daily scripture reading for help during times of desperation. Combat training doesn’t seem so important during times of peace, but when the fighting starts it saves your life—and maybe someone else’s too. In this case, it was my own daughter.

 

Cliff shared much more in his email to me, but I hope this snapshot has given you some ideas to consider when it comes to leaning upon God in desperate times. Whether you are in such a time right now or will face them soon, none of us escape these kinds of trials. As the Puritan preacher Jeremiah Burroughs rightly said “If you are in Christ you will never suffer, except in this world.” I have learned more about how to face these afflictions in faith because of the example of my friend.

So you can rejoice with them, I will share that, by God’s grace, the darkness has lifted for their family. Miraculously, Anna has in many ways recovered from her mysterious sickness. Diana has also recovered and she and Cliff’s marriage has never been stronger.

We don’t know why the cloud came, or why the cloud departed, but we do know Who presides over it all. Lord, willing, none of us will face things like they faced, but if those dark days do surround you, draw near to God in faith. Desperate prayers place us in before the God whose power is able to sustain us until we see His face.

 

2 Corinthians 4:6–15 “God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 7But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.  8We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12So death is at work in us, but life in you… knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.”