How To Pray: Part VI


Closing the deal.  Closing the sale.  When you go to buy a car, an effective salesman knows when to put the close on.  Closing too soon my hinder a customer from saying yes to buying the car because they feel pressured.  Never asking the customer to purchase the vehicle may cause the person to walk out the door without driving away with their new car.      Asking for a decision at the right time is paramount toward securing what you ultimately want.  Don’t get me wrong.  We are not trying to sale God on what we want for our good.  Praying is seeking to get on the same page as to what God wants.  But when we know what God wants, we can ask with boldness as to our requests.

Nehemiah closed his prayer by asking the Lord to act and give him success.  The end of the prayer is Nehemiah’s close in bold letters.  “Then I (Nehemiah) said:“ Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’ “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” I was cupbearer to the king.” ‭‭Nehemiah‬ ‭1:5-11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Nehemiah knew that before he could ever go back to his country and begin to rebuild the wall that had been torn down, he needed to get the approval of his boss the king to go back.  He was asking God to change the heart and mind of his boss to do what God had burdened him to do–rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.  Nehemiah was praying for God to act on His behalf.  Sometimes our prayers are focused too far in advance, yet Nehemiah was just focused on the next step he needed before any of the wall could be built.  Maybe that is why Jesus in Matthew 6:34, He said, “Don’t worry about tomorrow.  Each day has enough troubles of its own.  May our prayers need to convey more immediate needs to see Him work more immediately.

On this journey, when we recognize who God is and His attributes, we recognize our sinfulness and seek His forgiveness through confession, we realize the truth of God’s word and His promises to us, and we ask God to hear us and our requests, we can then ask God to act and give us success in whatever we pray to Him.

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How to Pray: Part V


I spent this last weekend up in Flagstaff with my wife Nadine, my son Carter, my daughter Victoria, and her two children Brayden and Keaton.  We decided to take a walk to the park and have the boys play in the kids park which had swings, a tetter-tauter, a castle, slipper-slide, and plenty of sand to build sand castles.  It also had picnic tables for the adults to sit on and a bathroom for bathroom breaks.

As boys would have it, they went into the bathroom and came out with an amazing discovery.  Under one of the stalls was a spider web and a spider hanging from the door of the stall.  Keaton was enthralled with the spider and wanted everyone to see the spider specimen.  When he came to me, he said, “Papa, come see the spider”  He wanted to get my attention.  He needed to get my attention so that I would go and see what he had found.  He wanted me to hear and to go do what he wanted me to go and do.  “Papa.”  He even grabbed my hand to make sure that I would go with him to see his discovery.

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Nehemiah did the same thing that my grandson did.  He wanted to get God’s attention as to what he was praying about.  Nehemiah said the bolded phrase two times–before he began to pray and at the end of his prayer.  “Then I (Nehemiah) said:“ Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’ “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” I was cupbearer to the king.” ‭‭Nehemiah‬ ‭1:5-11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Praying isn’t about just saying the words.  It’s not eloquent words that are spoken.  The purpose of prayers is to get and to keep the Lord’s attention and to cause Him to act on our behalf.  What use is our prayers if we pray but don’t know that the Lord is hearing us.  We need to get His attention after we have humbled ourselves by recognizing that He is the only one that can answer our requests.

On this journey, getting the Lord’s attention is crucial in getting the requests that we have asked of Him.

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How To Pray: Part IV


The word that is spoken or written is very powerful.  When you are going through school which we all have done, listening to the teacher’s instruction is critically important in taking a test, or writing a paper, or passing a class.  The teacher is bound by what he or she has said in following through with their word.  Unfortunately my illustration breaks down because we all know of situations when the words that are spoken are not followed.

In the courts, the law is quoted over and over again to the judge to get a favorable judgment.  Words that are written are powerful in swaying the judgment of a judge or a jury.  Cases years previously are used to influence those that would be making final decisions in the life of defendants, just by quoting the written word.

How about when God speaks His word.  How powerful is His word?  What about His promises?  How faithful is He in fulfilling His promises to those who follow them?  Nehemiah in the bold print uses the fourth step in praying by quoting what God said to the nation of Israel.  “Then I (Nehemiah) said:“ Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’ “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” I was cupbearer to the king.” ‭‭Nehemiah‬ ‭1:5-11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

The Word.  The Promise.  God’s word and promise.  How powerful.  Nehemiah was quoting the instruction that God gave Moses about the need for Israel to follow His commands.  There were negative consequences of not following the commands and positive consequences of obeying the commands.

On this journey, if we want God to answer our prayer, we need to be students of His word and use that word in asking God to answer the requests that we are praying to Him.

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How To Pray: Part III


We live in a society where taking responsibility for wrong actions is a thing of the past.  It’s so much easier to blame others for the problems of life.  Pointing the finger when things go wrong is so easy to do and keeps us from feeling the shame of wrong actions, inappropriate words, and negative attitudes.

The third aspect of praying involves a humbling of who we are, and a recognizing our inadequacies.  Part III in how to pray is bolded below.  “Then I (Nehemiah) said:“ Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’ “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” I was cupbearer to the king.” ‭‭Nehemiah‬ ‭1:5-11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I always wondered about praying for the sins of the nation as Nehemiah does when he says, “I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed.”  He includes himself as well as his father’s house.  There is no finger pointing.  There is no blame game taking place.  No passing the buck.  No hiding behind others who take the rap.  Nehemiah took full responsibility for not obeying the commands of the God of the universe.

I point the finger at myself when I think of blaming our government for the problems they have caused in recent days and months.  But when I look at Nehemiah’s prayer as he talked about Israel not obeying God’s commands, he included himself and his father and family in that action.  Rather than blaming others or the government for not turning to God and his commands, I need to point the finger at myself for doing the same thing.  I have disobeyed God’s commands so many times in my life, so I can truly see that Nehemiah needed to confess the same sins that his country had done.

On this journey, the humbling of ourselves as we confess our sins and the sins of our nation is essential in order for God to hear our prayers and to act.  Without confession there can be no direction.

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How To Pray: Part II


I was talking with a friend of mine on the phone and was telling them a story that took a few minutes to relate.  I had to give the back story to the story and then fill in the nitty gritty of the important aspects of the story.  I threw in a couple of colorful phrases to jazz it up a bit.  At the end of my verbal ranting I wanted some feedback from my friend.  I asked him a question and there was no answer.  Somehow he had been cut off and I was telling the story to wind.  No one was listening.  Total frustration.  I had told the story in vain and had to call him back to tell the story all over again.

When Nehemiah prayed, he made sure that he was asking God to listen to his prayer as you read in the bold letters.  “Then I (Nehemiah) said:“ Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’ “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” I was cupbearer to the king.”  ‭‭Nehemiah‬ ‭1:5-11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Nehemiah was asking God to lean his way so that He could hear what was on his mind.  Nehemiah was also asking God to open His eyes so that He could see the pain that Nehemiah was in because of the problems his relatives were having back in Jerusalem.  It wasn’t just one prayer that Nehemiah prayed, but he said that he had been praying day and night for days.  Persistence in getting God’s attention is at the core of how serious we are in getting His attention and answering our prayers.  I’m reminded of Jacob when he prayed all night with one of God’s workers (angels) and said that he (Jacob) wouldn’t let go until God blessed him.

Do we have that tenacity in our prayer life to stick with it until the Lord blesses us and answers our prayer.  Nehemiah had it.  Jacob had it.  Getting the Lord to listen with His ears and eyes demands that we slow down and take the time to listen and hear what He is saying.  “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) is a good reminder of our responsibility in order for us to hear God’s answer to our prayers.

On this journey, sometimes it is important to stop the noise and the movement in our lives if we truly want to hear what God has to say.

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Run Over By a Car


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My wife loves to run. You heard it right. She loves to run. I don’t mean a mile or two every year. Not a few a month. I mean running 6+ miles two to three times a week. I know that some of you don’t think of this as extreme and do equal to or more in your daily/weekly exercise program. I am writing this in my jlog because I am so proud of her and secretly wishing that I could run with her. Unfortunately several years ago I decided to train for a marathon at the age of 50 and my knees said “NO” when I reached the 6+ miles and have since turned to bicycle riding.

Well a about 3 weeks ago she decided to go out in our neighborhood and do her usual run. She runs on the sidewalk which is much safer than running on the road where a car could pass her by and clip her. About a block from our house, she came upon an intersection where an SUV had stopped before entering a two way street. Nadine slowed down and waved to the woman who was stopped waiting to enter the intersection and she proceeded to run with caution in front of the car. About the time she got in front of the SUV, the woman driving the BMW took off and hit my wife. It caused Nadine to loose her balance, hitting her head on the front of the car. The woman didn’t stop and as the car continued to move, it pushed her to the ground, hitting her head again and causing her to black out.

Fortunately, the woman stopped before running over her. Once Nadine came to, 6 people were standing over her and very concerned about her, and one had called 911 to secure an ambulance to take her to the emergency hospital. She did have a concussion, road rash on her shoulder and hip, two golf ball size bumps on her head, headache that lasted for 3 weeks, and lots of bodily pain as the shock wore off.

That is what happened to Nadine. But what about my side of the story. My side is not about the accident. It is what it is. I was in session with a client and got a call from the front desk. The message said, “Your wife was running and got hit by a car and is in the emergency room at Honor Health Osborn.” Think about what you would think if you got this message regarding someone significant in your life. My mind raced as I sped down the 101 (I might add over the speed limit) to get to my wife as quickly as possible. Was she going to live? How many broken bones did she have? How long would she be in the hospital? What would the long lasting effects of this accident? All of these questions were erased when I arrived to find my wife with the above descriptions of what really happened.

What would you do if you heard that something happened to a person you loved? Maybe you have been in that situation. It’s a shock to your system. The most important things in life come center stage. Nothing is more important than getting to your sweetheart and being by her side. All else in life pails in significant to that relationship. Stuff is of no consequence. Fame has no power when the relationship is threatened. No amount of money can calm the fears as you drive toward the hospital. It’s the relationship that is most important.

Jesus was asked what is the greatest command of the 631 commandments in the Old Testament. He responded by saying that cultivating relationships were the most important. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might, and love your neighbor as your love yourself.” (Matthew 22:37) Relationships. Relationship with God. Relationship with your neighbor (wife, child, husband, friend, relative, father, mother, coworker). When crisis situations arise, it surfaces for us the things that are most important in life.

On this journey, there are situations that happen (getting hit by a car) that causes us to reposition our minds to the things that are most important in life. Don’t miss the message.

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How to Pray: Part I


What happens when you are faced with a problem that is too big for you to handle?  Some of you might be saying that there is no problem to big to solve.  Others who are reading this might be saying that everything in my life is too big to handle.  When faced with problems we can respond in different ways.  Some run away from the problem and try to cover over the problem.  Problems can sometimes be faced head on if we have the resources to take care of the problem.  Sometimes we have no earthly idea how to deal with the problem and resort to praying about it and asking God to handle the problem.

Nehemiah was faced with a problem.  His homeland  was disheveled and burned with fire.  His relatives were in bad shape and had been forced from their homes.  When he heard the news he fell into a depression of helplessness and wept and mourned for days.  When he was at his lowest, he turned to God and prayed.  The following prayer is recorded in Nehemiah 1 of the Old Testament.  I am going to break his prayer down into various segments to help in seeing how to pray to God who is able to take whatever problem we face and deal with it.

“Then I (Nehemiah) said: “ Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, let your ear be attentive and your eyes open to hear the prayer your servant is praying before you day and night for your servants, the people of Israel. I confess the sins we Israelites, including myself and my father’s family, have committed against you. We have acted very wickedly toward you. We have not obeyed the commands, decrees and laws you gave your servant Moses. “Remember the instruction you gave your servant Moses, saying, ‘If you are unfaithful, I will scatter you among the nations, but if you return to me and obey my commands, then even if your exiled people are at the farthest horizon, I will gather them from there and bring them to the place I have chosen as a dwelling for my Name.’ “They are your servants and your people, whom you redeemed by your great strength and your mighty hand. Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” I was cupbearer to the king.”
‭‭Nehemiah‬ ‭1:5-11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I have bolded the first step in effectively praying to God who answers prayers.  Nehemiah first of all recognized God and his abilities.  He recognized that God was the One who ruled the heavens or had total power and control.  He recognized Him as being great and awesome.  He realized that the God he was praying to was a faithful God who comes through with His promises and keeps his Word with those who love and are devoted to Him.

Too many times we come to the Lord and question whether God is able to answer our prayers.  It’s in those times that we need to take some time in our prayers to meditate upon the attributes of God and dwell on His qualities to change our belief system.  Isaiah in chapter 40 describes God as One who can measure the waters of the whole earth in the hollow of His hand.  God can measure the heavens by the span of His hand.  All the power of the whole universe compared to God’s power is like a drop in the bucket compared to God’s power.  We sometimes place God in a box of limitations so that the problems we face are too big for God’s power.  Our challenge is to expand our view of God so that we come to God as One who is able to meet our greatest need and more.

On this journey of prayer, it might be helpful to read passages like Isaiah 40 and Psalms 139 to expand our view of God and therefore become more effective in our prayer life.

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