A devotion for prayer meeting.
This devotion calls for one of those rare moments of honesty. I know that’s the last thing many expect when coming to church—someone being honest. If we are all going to be honest though, we grow dull in prayer too often. I can’t speak for everyone else, but I can speak for myself and my own experience in times of dull dryness in prayer. Sometimes I let the busyness of life push prayer from the center. Sometimes I’m tired and feel scattered and prayer is not fresh. I find in those times that prayer becomes repetitive and mechanical. I find that prayer becomes general and vague. I also find that prayer at those times becomes much more focused on me and what I need or want.
Simply put, there are times we need a reboot in our prayer life. We need a refreshing and refocusing in prayer. To help us in that, I want to look at some specific prayers from the Bible. This will not include everything we are commanded to pray for in the Bible, but some key things that will help us to refocus. In order to recover fresh zeal in prayer, we often need to come back to specific prayer needs in our own life and for others around us.
Pray for the salvation of the lost
It’s good to begin outside of ourselves and consider the needs of others. Paul gave us a good example of praying for the salvation of the lost.
Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved.
– Romans 10:1
He testified that he had “great heaviness and continual sorrow” for his “kinsmen according to the flesh.” i.e. Israel (Romans 9:2-3). He had a great desire and prayed for his fellow Jews that they might be saved. Likewise, we have family who are lost. We have neighbors who are lost. We have co-workers who are lost. Let us repent of our indifference and pray to God that they might be saved.
We do not only pray for salvation, but we also give witness of the Gospel to those we pray for. In that regard, we should also be praying for the free course of the Gospel among those we pray for.
Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you:
– 2 Thessalonians 3:1
We should be praying for appropriate boldness in our witness.
Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that i may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel,
– Ephesians 6:18-19
We need the boldness that the Word deserves when it is proclaimed. It may sound contradictory, but we also need to pray for meekness and humility in our witness. We need to speak the truth in love and not become angry or shout at others when we face opposition (1 Peter 2:21-23).
We should also be praying for other churches and missionaries in their work of evangelizing. We should not only be concerned about ourselves or our church, but we should have a burden for our fellow laborers and pray for them and rejoice with them when the Lord blesses them.
Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; That I may be delivered form them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints;
– Romans 15:30-31
We should not be all wrapped up in what we are doing. We should remember others and their labor for the Lord.
Pray for ourselves and our brothers and sisters
As we pray for our own needs, we must also remember our brothers and sisters who have the same needs in several areas. We should be praying for an increased knowledge of God and his will.
For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
– Colossians 1:9
We should pray for the flourishing of hope in our lives.
The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,
– Ephesians 1:18
We should pray for unfailing faith and help for our unbelief (Mark 9:24).
But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
– Luke 22:32
We should pray for strength to stand.
Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness;
– Colossians 1:11
We should pray for fruitfulness in our lives. Fruitfulness glorifies God and should be our desire (John 15:8, 16).
That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God;
– Colossians 1:10
Lastly, we should pray for deliverance from temptation.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
– Matthew 6:13
We are daily engaged in a great warfare against our flesh, sin, and the devil. We must never take it lightly, but pray continually to be delivered (Matthew 26:41).
Every preacher worth his salt, and probably many who aren’t, get asked questions frequently. One common question is in the form: Is it wrong to do X? People are not usually asking this in contemplation of murdering their neighbor or stealing his car. They ask, Is it wrong to play the lottery? Is it wrong to watch that movie? Is it wrong to listen to this music?
The questions are seldom of some theological import or about some passage they have been wrestling with to understand. They are usually not all that serious. The older I get, the more I esteem the wisdom of George Washington. He was not highly educated and had a keen sense of it. However, he was continually sought after for advice. Though he wrote some seventeen thousand letters in his lifetime, he seldom gave advice. He said that he had come to see that those who most sought advice least wanted it. Insightful.
I have found that many who ask the is-it-wrong questions are those who are going to do or continue to do what they’re doing regardless of anything you might have to say or show them from God’s Word. They just want a quick justification or affirmation. At best, they wait for your mouth to stop moving so they can say, “Yeah, but…”
A Better Question
Perhaps there is a better approach when dealing with more difficult questions. There is something to be said about circumstances. There is something to be said about strong and weak consciences. There is certainly something to be said about moderation, but maybe we should consider something else first.
One of the results of maturing in Christ is growing in discernment between things that are good and things that are evil (Hebrews 5:13-14). If you want to ask if something is wrong to do, let me first ask you some questions about your growth in wisdom.
- How committed are you to the regular reading and studying of God’s Word (Psalm 1:2; 119:9; Acts 17:11)?
- Are you in a sound church under the sound preaching and teaching of God’s Word (1 Thessalonians 5:20-22; Hebrews 10:25)?
- Are you praying regularly for wisdom and seeking it tenaciously (James 1:5; Proverbs 2:1-5)?
- Do you have wise, godly companions who edify and encourage you in a good way (Hebrews 10:25; Proverbs 13:20)?
- Do you receive correction and instruction when it is given (Proverbs 1:5; 9:9)?
If you answer, No, to any of those questions, then asking if it’s wrong to wear a certain article of clothing or go to some event is the wrong question. You’re starting at the wrong place. If you’re not using any of the means of growing in wisdom that God has instructed and provided for us, then you’re probably not going to receive good counsel when it is given. You’re also ill-equipped to discern between good and bad counsel.
A better question to ask in this regard is the question of expediency. Paul wrote, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not” (1 Corinthians 10:23). Expedient means helpful or beneficial. He wrote this in the context of eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. As he reasons through it, you can see it’s more complicated than yes or no. If you are interested in this verse in more depth, you can go to a past article I wrote about it here.
Rather than asking if something is wrong, you should ask if it’s expedient. Is it helpful, beneficial? How is doing this going to affect my closeness to God? There are things that stir our thoughts and affections for God and there are things that stunt them or kill them cold. How something affects you is a question that others can’t really answer for you, unless you’re walking with wise friends who know you and see you over time. Then they can help, but they still don’t know fully what is going on within.
Solomon taught that the relentless pursuit of entertainment is folly (Ecclesiastes 7:2-6). Everything in life doesn’t have to be a sermon to be beneficial but you do have to have wisdom to have the good kind of enjoyment of the things of earth (Ecclesiastes 2:24; 3:12-13, 22; 5:18-20; 8:15; 9:7; Proverbs 5:15-19).
Since expulsion from the Garden of Eden man has pondered the question: Who am I? Of course it is the result of being made a living soul, which distinguishes man from the rest of creation, that even enables him to think such a thing. So, who are we really?
Certain Objective Biological and Physical Realities
God created the first human being during the creation week (Genesis 1:26-28). He was a human male named Adam and he was distinct from all the rest of creation and its plant and animal life. God’s design and command to the man was to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth with other human beings. However, throughout the entire creation there was nothing compatible or complementary to the man with which he could fulfill his purpose so God made a woman, a female counterpart to the male, and brought her to the man that the two could be joined together and bring forth children (Genesis 2:7, 15-25).
The most basic aspect of our human identity is being made male or female after the image of God. More personally, God is at work in forming each one of us in the womb (Psalm 139:13-16). We are conceived either male or female according to the purpose of God and formed with other physical and genetic traits to be born into the world.
All these are objective realities and not something anyone can choose or change. We’ve all probably thought at one time or another that we would like to be taller, older, or younger but these things cannot be changed by thoughts or actions (Matthew 6:27). The prophet Jeremiah asked if the Ethiopian could change his skin (Jeremiah 13:23). The answer is no, he cannot. One might suggest that he could undergo medical procedures to perhaps lighten his skin over time, but he hasn’t really changed it, only deformed and disfigured it.
Other Aspects of Identity
Being made male or female is the most fundamental human identity but there are other aspects that contribute to our identity as well. We have a nationality or ethnicity, a birthplace, a native tongue (Acts 2:5-11). All these things contribute to our identity and are objective realities no one can choose or change.
Beyond this we can add some things to our identity by pursuing education or training or being accomplished in some skill. While those things can contribute to our identity, they cannot fundamentally alter it. Whether we ourselves or others view our identity as good or bad, it is not something we should put any hope in.
The discussion of identity today revolves mostly around someone unhappy with their identity and wanting to change it. Paul gives us a different perspective in Philippians 3:3-11. He was born with a stellar identity and rejoiced in it for part of his life. He was born a male of Israel into the tribe of Benjamin. He was circumcised on the eighth day and brought up in observation of the law. He later added to his identity through training to become a Pharisee. He considered himself a Hebrew of the Hebrews. If anyone should have reason to have confidence in their identity, Saul of Tarsus had reason.
Though Paul was very proud and happy with his human identity, he learned it was not enough. He considered his identity as rubbish that he might have a new identity in Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:7-11). When it comes to eternal life in Christ, neither a good human identity nor a bad human identity can avail us anything. We must be made a new creation in Jesus Christ (Galatians 6:15). Nothing in our identity commends us or gives advantage with God (Galatians 3:28). In fact, all who come to Christ are given a new identity in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 2:20).
What is Our Human Identity?
We are human beings made in the image of God, male or female according His eternal purpose and will. We are broken through sin that comes to us by nature through our forefather Adam and our mother Eve. That brokenness is manifested within us and without us in thousands of ways and often making us uncomfortable in our own skin. Whether we are discontent or unhappy with some fact of our identity, we cannot change it. We can only deform it. What we need is not surgical, chemical, or psychiatric modification, but rather to be made a new creation in Christ destined for full glorification and everlasting life in wholeness with our Creator and Savior. That identity, that life, is only had through repentance and faith in God’s Son.