A New Year’s Prayer

Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth.
– 3 John 2

Pray the Scripture.

New Year’s Day is just another day. A lot of people are off from work and maybe spend the day with family, but it’s not really so much different from the day before it or after it. It’s not just another day, since it marks the beginning of a new year. I realize that’s just convention, but there’s something to it for us.

New Year’s provides a natural time for us to review the previous year and different aspects of our life in general. We also naturally look ahead and even if we don’t have written goals, we probably have unwritten ones. We have areas of our life in mind that we would like to improve, continue, or maybe stop. Goals involving personal health and finances are on most people’s minds. If you’re a Christian, you probably have in mind some sort of spiritual goals. Maybe you want to read the Bible in a year for the first time, or pray more, or pray better.

So let’s think together on a portion of Scripture that will perhaps help us with three common goals or thoughts at the beginning of a new year: devotions, money, and prayer. Paul wrote to Timothy:

    Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not highminded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy; That they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; Laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.
    – 1 Timothy 6:17-19

Meditate on the Scripture

What does this passage mean? Paul mentions riches in this passage and it is the third mention material possessions at the close of this letter. The first is a warning about greedy, false teachers (1 Timothy 6:3-5). The second flows from the first and is a word concerning contentment and a sober warning to those who desire to be rich (1 Timothy 6:6-10). Paul then tells Timothy to flee all these things that he be above reproach and then gives Timothy this charge for the rich.

The word Paul uses for rich in this passage means wealth, or abundance of possessions. Most of us dismiss this charge as belonging to a category of people we do not belong to. Not so fast. The earlier warning was to those who want to be rich and this word is to those who “are rich in this world.” If we think in general and basic terms, riches refers to having abundant possessions, or having more than mere necessity. While we can discuss a range of having more, we must admit that most everyone reading this has more than simply mere necessity. The fact there are people with far greater abundance than us does not change the fact that we have more than just what we need. So this charge is for you and for me.

The charge consists of two things not to do and five things to do that will result in “laying up in store … for the time to come,” and laying “hold of eternal life.” First, we are not to be highminded. The word means haughty and Paul is telling us not to derive our self-worth from our possessions where we esteem ourselves more highly than those who have less than us. Second, we are not to trust in uncertain riches. Whatever abundance we have, we are not to have confidence and hope in those things, which are so uncertain. Everything you and I have today could be gone tomorrow.

Having wealth in whatever measure, we are first charged to trust in God, who is the source of our abundance and the terminus for our enjoyment, praise, and thanksgiving. Second, we are to do good. Doing good means doing good for others, or doing things for the benefit of others. Third, we are to have an abundance of good works. The word for good here means beautiful in the sense of noble, or virtuous. Fourth, we are to be ready to give. Fifth, we are to be ready to share.

Paul, nor other Scripture, condemns the having of abundance. We are warned not to trust in it, nor to pursue it as our primary goal. We are charged to be open-handed and generous in giving to others. We are to be thankful for what we have, recognizing from Whom we have received it. And, we are to use it for enjoyment and service in bringing glory to God. By this, we lay up treasure in Heaven.

Pray the Scripture

Maybe you have heard someone talking about praying Scripture, but aren’t sure what they mean. First, let’s admit we all struggle in prayer. We fall into routine, redundant prayers we don’t even need to be fully awake to pray. We set out to spend a longer time in prayer but run out of gas after only a few minutes. Praying Scripture can help us, but what is it and how does it work?

Let’s use our passage to see how we might pray this passage. First, we read the passage and meditate, or think, on what it means and how it applies to us. We did this in the previous section. You may to spend some time thinking how each of those charges apply to you personally. Second, we pray the passage.

We often must begin with confession to put ourselves in the right place in the passage. Here we begin by acknowledging we are rich. We have more than bare necessities in life. Don’t worry about who may have more, or less. You have more than you deserve and more than you truly need. So acknowledge this before God.

Next we focus on what we are not to do. If we have been highminded and trusting in possessions, confess it and repent of it. This will take time for reflection and examination to search out our own hearts and shine the light of Scripture in the dark corners. After confession, we seek God for his help and deliverance from these temptations and failings.

Then we pray through what we are charged to do. We can follow the pattern–examine our hearts and lives, confess and repent our failures, and seek God for deliverance and preservation to glorify him in faithful obedience.

A New Year’s Prayer

This particular praying of Scripture is an excellent way to start the new year. Perhaps this practice will help you pray more and better in the new year. Maybe this prayer will help us with the abundance we have. I pray this will help us glorify him this year, whether by life or by death.

Prayer Reboot

Pray without ceasing. ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:17

Pray without ceasing.
~ 1 Thessalonians 5:17

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).

The Haves and the Have-Nots

Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. ~ James 4:3

Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts. ~ James 4:3

Failure in Prayer

James describes us as lusting, killing, desiring, fighting, and warring to get what we want and yet we cannot obtain it (James 4:2). We will go to great lengths to obtain the things we desire. We will strive, work, sacrifice, and pursue with all that is in us and still the possession eludes us.

We Do Not Ask
James generalizes two failures in this case. The first is almost unthinkable. In verse 2, he describes people with a strong desire to obtain. Despite all their striving, they have not because they “ask not.” Think about how hard we work and to what lengths we go sometimes to get something and all the while we have never humbled ourselves before God and simply asked for it.

As unthinkable as it is, I find myself there far too often. I will work, scratch, and save. I will talk to people for their advice. I will read several books about it and yet I have neglected to simply and plainly ask God for it. How could this happen? How could I invest so much time and energy into something and never have asked God for it?

If we are being honest, we have to admit that none of us excel at prayer the way we should. James’ point makes it clear that something in our flesh does not relish prayer. There is something in us that would rather exhaust us completely and then turn to prayer as a last resort.

Have you ever had to do a job that you didn’t want to do? Have you ever done more work to get out of that job than if you would have just done it to begin with? We all have. Why? Because we did not like that task. We did not want to do it. It is the same with prayer. We have not because we ask not. We ask not because we don’t like to ask. We don’t like to pray. There is something in us that would rather do everything else first, and if that doesn’t work, then pray.

We Do Not Ask For The Right Things
The second failure is much easier to own. We ask and do not receive because we have asked for the wrong thing or for the wrong reason. When we are not concerned about God’s will, we just ask for that foolish and momentary desire to be given. Usually, in hindsight, we are very glad we weren’t given that request.

This failure is born of self-centeredness. We are not concerned about anyone or anything else but our own wants in the moment. In that moment, we are more concerned about our will being done than God’s. Consequently, we are not heard.

John wrote:

And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us; And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.
~ 1 John 5:14-15

A Third Failure
Latent in this text is a third failure, and one we have more often than we think. Consider the verses near the close of chapter four.

Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.
~ James 4:13-15

If we think about this warning in context with the beginning of the chapter, we see the subtle point. We do not fail in prayer only when we have not, but also when we have.

Those addressed in the above verses have. They have the means to go into a city to abide, buy, sell, and get gain. They are chided for boasting that they will go without any consideration to God’s will, but this also suggests they are prayerless.

How often do we fail precisely the same way? We need a new appliance or article of clothing. We need a repair to our house or car. We have the money, so, Why would we pray about it? How many times do we check our bank account before, or without, checking with God.

If we are to “pray without ceasing” and to pray “always with all prayer and supplication,” Shouldn’t we pray when we have just as much as when we have not? Jesus prayed in John 11:41-42 to thank the Father for hearing Him, even though He knew that the Father always heard Him. This was not a waste of time nor a formality. Let us likewise pray and seek God when we have not and also when we have.

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