Watch Your Mouth!

A prayer is a powerful tool that allows us to develop a closer relationship with our Creator. However, we sometimes erroneously think that the prayer moment is the only time that our words matter. What we say to ourselves and others is of paramount importance. We must be careful not to reverse our well-intended prayer petitions by speaking negatively about situations we’ve taken before the Lord.

Proverbs 18:21 says Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” We must speak life over ourselves, people, and situations. It is ineffective to pour our hearts out before God, declare our trust, need, and dependence on God to resolve the situation, then get up from our prayer stance and continue as if we’d never reached out to God.

No matter what circumstance we face, we must relinquish our limited understanding, perceived sense of power and control, and any related unforgiveness in order to give our omnipotent Creator, Deliverer, Provider, Healer, Comforter, and every other “er” that you need, room to work on the situation. Think of your circumstance as a ball. When we pray, we are releasing the ball – that ball of worry, frustration, fear, resentment, etc. to the Lord. Speaking ill of the ball we release in prayer is to snatch the ball back from God. For whatever reason, we decide that we want to hold on to it and examine it for a while longer. Then we wonder why our circumstance seems to continue and in some cases get worse.

As tempting as it may be to take back that ball of confusion, fatigue, distress, discomfort, and all the other “dis”es, we must resist the urge! Remind yourself of who you are and whose you are. Focus on the promises of God and speak LIFE – victory, joy, faith, peace, restoration, and success over yourself and every situation that troubles your heart. Follow Paul’s advice in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5 which says:

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Speak victoriously and live victoriously!

Preparing to Receive

We have a natural desire for “more” – more pleasure, appreciation, accolades, wealth, attention, cooperation, talent, success – the list goes on and on. We often want the blessings for ourselves that we see others enjoying. We may even harbor frustration or resentment about others’ blessings. It is in these moments that we need to shift our mindset from the resulting blessing to the preparation that preceded it. The question is not whether God cares for us, the question is whether we are prepared to receive what He has for us.

The Lord definitely wants to bless us. Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope a future.” 2 Corinthians 9:8 says “And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.”

We receive many blessings simply through God’s grace. Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”

God gives according to His love. We receive according to our faith. Matthew 9:29 is part of a scripture where Jesus healed the blind and mute. It reads: “Then he touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith let it be done to you.” Our blessings are not solely for our personal edification, but to position us to bless other people and therefore glorify God. We must exercise great faith to walk in the fullness of God and the blessings that He has for us. We must go before the Lord in prayer and ask Him to prepare our hearts to receive all that He has for us. 1 Corinthians 2:9 reads “But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”  Faith and love are intertwined in our Christian journey. We cannot have one without the other. In fact, faith is an expression of love. Galatians 5:6 ends by stating “What is important is faith expressing itself in love.”

We need to check our motives and seek God’s face instead of His hand. Blessings are a byproduct of a rich relationship with the Lord. When we are selfish and minimize our time, attention, and emphasis on God, we are not in a position to receive all that He has for us. However, as we spiritually mature and transition from a self-centered to a Christ-centered existence, our lives become richer and fuller. We are more aware of God’s blessings including wisdom, favor, peace, protection, provision, grace, and mercy in our everyday existence. As our relationship grows, our faith grows. We acknowledge our increasing dependence on God, giving Him a myriad of opportunities to be a waymaker and bless our lives abundantly as stated in John 15:5-8: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

 

Resolving An Identity Crisis

We each struggle with our identity based on multiple perspectives. There is the person we present to the outside world, the person the world perceives us to be, and the person we truly are. These identities matter in our prayer life because how we see ourselves affects the tone and focus of our prayers. We approach the Lord based on how we see ourselves. Guilt, shame, unworthiness, regret, unforgiveness, cynicism, frustration, and fear can cloud our spiritual mirrors.

Unfortunately, we rarely consider our most important identity – how the Lord sees us. With man, for a variety of reasons, we often present a carefully-constructed facade that conceals our true feelings. With God, there is no need to be less than completely honest. Prayer is a conversation with our Creator. When we go before the Lord in prayer, we must drop the pretense and be honest about our feelings, frustrations, and concerns. We must acknowledge challenging areas of our lives in order to invite the Lord’s intervention. It is impossible to fix something that we are unwilling to admit is broken.

There is no reason to hide the issues of our heart from The One who created us. He knows anyway! Jeremiah 1:5 says “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” God knows our hearts and our thoughts. Nothing is hidden from God. Psalm 139:12 says even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” Hebrews 4:13 tells us that “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

It hardly makes natural sense to go before an all-powerful God, outlining our failures, flaws, and feelings. It sounds like a recipe for disaster, when in fact it is a formula for victory. The reason we can go before God, despite our shortcomings and imperfections, is because of how He views us!

We are God’s masterful creation! Ephesian 2:10 says For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago. The Lord delights in us and sings over us! Zephaniah 3:17 says “The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.” 

Isn’t it easier to ask something from someone who you know is loving, accepting, warm, and receptive toward you? Each time we pray, we can do so with confidence knowing that God loves us. We can never escape his presence. He knows us intimately and wants us to trust him wholeheartedly. In those areas where we struggle, he wants us to confess those struggles, to point out those places of brokenness so that he can repair and restore them. The more we trust him, the better we can operate according to our eternal Kingdom Identity instead of other temporary views. Philippians 1:16 says “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Clean Sweep

Everyone appreciates new things. Whether it’s a new outfit, school supplies for the upcoming academic year or the latest electronic gadget, new things give us a sense of excitement. It should be the same way in our spiritual lives. When we open our heart to God, He can open our eyes to new possibilities that bless us and others. Isaiah 43:19 says  See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” 

The prerequisite to receiving any new thing in the natural or spiritual realm is to clear the existing space to prepare for your new blessing. In the natural realm, this may mean cleaning your garage before buying a new car. In the spiritual realm, this means confessing your sins and asking God to cleanse your heart before petitioning Him about anything else. Psalm 51:10 says “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” 

God is all-powerful so He can work with us, even if our heart isn’t exactly clean or our spirit isn’t exactly right, right? Actually yes, God is sovereign. The Bible is full of examples of God using imperfect people to accomplish his perfect will. We are no different. However, there is a difference between being minimally and passively used by God versus having a rich, righteous, intimate, and joyous fellowship with God – one where you see Him actively working in every area your life. Sometimes we think that being “a good person” is good enough. We figure as long as we aren’t doing anything that will land us in jail, we are doing ok. But that is not what God wants for our lives. John 10:10 says “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come so that they may have life, and may have it abundantly.” God wants us to worship Him, which means living a life filled with purpose and inspiration. In order to live our best lives, we must operate with a clean heart which means confessing our sins before God often. Our lives become an act of worship – what we say and do, how we speak and serve, who we support and encourage. Proverbs 16:3 says “Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.”

Your heart is like a window that God can always see. The end of 1 Samuel 16:7 says “…People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” Sin clouds up that window – making our outlook dark and distant, and blocking the light that God wants to shine in our lives. Confessing our sins is like using a spiritual pressure washer. Confession invites God to clean away the filth of guilt, shame, bitterness, resentment, pride, envy, lust, unforgiveness, and so many other sins off of our hearts, allowing us to see and hear from God clearly.

When God does a spiritual sweep, our hearts are sparkling clean! Isaiah 1:18 says “Come now, and let us reason together,” saith the Lord. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”

We cannot cleanse our own hearts. Our hearts are cleansed by grace from our Heavenly Father. 1 Samuel 16:7 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 

Praying under Pressure

The demands of everyday life carry the potential for a full-blown stress buffet. The plate of our daily routines includes meeting needs and expectations for others as well as ourselves. Our plates quickly become overloaded as we pile on more demands. We find ourselves in some combination of depending on others and others depending on us. A single unexpected situation can add too much to our already overloaded plate, and throw this delicate daily system out of balance. We find ourselves confused, uncertain, anxious, frustrated and stressed as we struggle to regain balance and return our plate to a reasonable portion. You may be reluctant to pray when you find yourself under pressure. However, it is in these critical moments that it is crucial to convey your concerns to God. When you find yourself in the midst of crisis, pray from your heart and remember that the Lord is:

  1. Present  – Matthew 28:20 ends “…And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” The Lord is just a whisper away. He is always available and never too busy, tired, or angry to listen when you call. He never sleeps. Psalm 72:23 says Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.” We never need to worry about God being unavailable when we need him. Deuteronomy 31:6 reminds us to “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” We can rest assured that the Lord is present in each crisis we face.
  2. Faithful – the Lord is generous and gracious. Exodus 34:6 says “And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness,”  God is not like man who can be selfish, temperamental and conditional. God is FOR you – He is generous and consistent. Deuteronomy 32:4 says it this way: “He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” He eagerly awaits his invitation into your situation.
  3. Moving – Even when it’s not obvious or doesn’t feel like it, God is still working on your behalf. 1 Corinthians 12:6 says “There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.”  Romans 8:28 reminds us that “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Crises are intended to mature you and bring you into a greater understanding of God’s character. James 1:2-4 tell us to Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” 

Your refining time in a spiritual pressure cooker is ultimately for your benefit. Such experiences can strengthen and mature you. Praying under pressure effectively outsources your worry, anxiety, and frustration to The One who can meet needs according to His infinite resources rather than your limited supply:

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:19

 

 

Freedom from Guilt!

Liberty in Christ occurs in a variety of forms. First, there is the liberty of eternal life as described in Romans 6:23 which says “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

Second, there is the liberty of operating outside of common expectations. Jesus Christ was a rebel. He was of Jewish descent, yet did not conform to many established practices and laws. He drew ire because he intentionally associated with those who were otherwise ousted and despised in Jewish society. Today, reaching out to express love by serving and encouraging others – especially those who aren’t in a position to reciprocate – is a radical concept that is counter to our mainstream culture.

Third, Christians enjoy freedom from sin. Romans 6:14 says “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.” Christians commit sins daily, either by what they do or neglect to do. Yet, forgiveness is available for the asking. The trouble is, we seek God’s forgiveness but often do not forgive ourselves.

Guilt is a trick of the enemy. Just as God has many names, satan does too. Satan literally means “The Accuser” or “Slanderer”. Guilt and shame are deceptive spirits that hinder our prayer life because they burden us with feelings of unworthiness. The word devil means “deceiver”.  The devil tries to convince you to replay the most painful experiences because he knows guilt and shame can distract you and hinder your prayer effectiveness. Focusing on past regret, sorrow, guilt, and shame restricts your ability to face the future with joy and confidence. You cannot anticipate God’s blessings by looking backward. We cannot focus on prayer needs for today if we are trapped in the past. God knows our past, present, and future. We need only to confess our sins and seek God’s forgiveness. John 1:9 reminds us “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Since The One who created us can forgive us, then we can receive his grace and walk in newness of life. We can be free to intercede about the prayer needs we encounter daily.  This is a continuous cycle. The more often we practice confession and forgiveness, the more liberated we become in God’s kingdom. The more liberated we become in God’s kingdom, the more effective we are in praying for ourselves and others.

Philippians 3:13-14 advises:Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

Praying for Refreshing

Life has ways of taking you off guard and zapping your energy unexpectedly. Whether it’s an unexpected crisis or weariness in being the person other rely on, we are are in constant danger of faltering simply because we are drained. Constantly considering and doing for others can take a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual toll on us.

When you find yourself struggling through a season of weariness where you feel tired or discontent, pray and ask God to:

  1. Forgive you for trying to do His job – God doesn’t need our help. We often struggle unnecessarily because we hoard our troubles and worries, trying to maneuver and manipulate situations that God never intended us to address without His intervention. We are limited and finite. God is unlimited and infinite! He is the sovereign Alpha and the Omega, the One who knows the end from the beginning! John 15:5 says 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.” We need to shift our mindset to seek God’s direction and intervention as a first option rather than a last resort.
  2. Allow you to operate in God’s strength and not your own – We are designed to exist in Eden. We were not built for the weight, issues, troubles, and concerns of this world. We must invite God into the midst of the situations that concern us. Psalm 46:1 says “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” The more embarrassed or ashamed we are of the situation, the more important it is for us to release it to the Lord. 1 Peter 4:11 says “If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.”
  3. Grant you wisdom, peace, favor, and deliverance – God wants to be glorified. He can take a hopeless, desperate situation and transform it into one that blesses us beyond measure. In addition to the mechanics of the situation in the physical realm, He can also bless our minds with Godly wisdom; our hearts with peace that surpasses all understanding; our lives with favor when He opens doors that no man can shut; our souls with deliverance that brings about a new level of liberty as we operate at a greater level of faith. You can read more about this through many scriptures, including Ephesians 1.

When God answers those prayers, we find ourselves in a season of refreshing. Matthew 11:28 says “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” The Lord can restore our hearts, minds and bless our lives and souls with delight and wonder – we need only ask! Jeremiah 31:25 reminds us of God’s promise: “I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”