My husband recently spent hours researching his family tree. He discovered ancestors’ birthplaces, previously unknown relatives, and even pictures that served to assure that Cousin Fred and Great Uncle Matthew were definitely related: “they have the same ears!”
Several years ago I was able to contact family members I never knew existed. In addition to the sharing of stories, I discovered that many males in the family in former generations had fallen victim to the same serious disease. There were too many occurrences to ignore as mere coincidence; heredity was definitely playing a part. While there is nothing I can do to eradicate this tendency, I and my current family can do everything possible to change our diets and otherwise lead healthy lives.
How different is God’s “family tree.” When an individual receives Christ as personal Savior, “the old has gone, the new has come.” There are residual effects from the old family, but through grace-filled adoption and the process of the Holy Spirit’s transforming work, we have new life. In essence we have received new spiritual “genes.” We even increasingly resemble our Father God and Brother Christ!
“The great marvel of Jesus Christ’s salvation is that He alters heredity.” (Oswald Chambers)
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I expressed amazement and confessed that my prayers were short and formal. He invited (dared?) me to meet him for prayer. I did the next day. We knelt on the concrete floor of our small church auditorium and began to talk to God. Change that. I talked; he cried, wailed, begged, cajoled, and pleaded. He pounded his fists on the floor, shook a fist toward heaven, confessed, and re confessed every sin. He recited every promise in the Bible as if God needed a reminder. He prayed like Moses.
When God determined to destroy the Israelites for their golden calf stunt, “Moses begged the Lord his God and said, ‘Lord, don’t let your anger destroy your people, whom you brought out of Egypt with your great power and strength. Don’t let the people of Egypt say, “The Lord brought the Israelites out of Egypt for an evil purpose.” . . . Remember the men who served you—Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. You promised with an oath to them’” (Exodus 32:11–13 NCV).
Moses on Mount Sinai is not calm and quiet, with folded hands and a serene expression. He’s on his face one minute, in God’s the next. He’s on his knees, pointing his finger, lifting his hands. Shedding tears. Shredding his cloak. Wrestling like Jacob at Jabbok for the lives of his people. And God heard him! “So the Lord changed his mind and did not destroy the people as he had said he might” (v.14 NCV).
Our passionate prayers move the heart of God. “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). Prayer does not change God’s nature; who he is will never be altered. Prayer does, however, impact the flow of history. God has wired his world for power, but he calls on us to flip the switch.
Most of us struggle with prayer. We forget to pray, and when we remember, we hurry through prayers with hollow words. Our minds drift; our thoughts scatter like a covey of quail. Why is this? Prayer requires minimal effort. No location is prescribed. No particular clothing is required. No title or office is stipulated. Yet you’d think we were wrestling a greased pig.
Speaking of pigs, Satan seeks to interrupt our prayers. Our battle with prayer is not entirely our fault. The devil knows the stories; he witnessed the angel in Peter’s cell and the revival in Jerusalem. He knows what happens when we pray. “Our weapons have power from God that can destroy the enemy’s strong places” (2 Corinthians 10:4 NCV).
Satan is not troubled when Max writes books or prepares sermons, but his knobby knees tremble when Max prays. Satan does not stutter or stumble when you walk through church doors or attend committee meetings. Demons aren’t flustered when you read this book. But the walls of hell shake when one person with an honest heart and faithful confession says, “Oh, God, how great thou art.”
Satan keeps you and me from prayer. He tries to position himself between us and God. But he scampers like a spooked dog when we move forward. So let’s do.
Let’s pray, first. Traveling to help the hungry? Be sure to bathe your mission in prayer. Working to disentangle the knots of injustice? Pray. Weary with a world of racism and division? So is God. And he would love to talk to you about it.
Let’s pray, most. Did God call us to preach without ceasing? Or teach without ceasing? Or have committee meetings without ceasing? Or sing without ceasing? No, but he did call us to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Did Jesus declare: My house shall be called a house of study? Fellowship? Music? A house of exposition? A house of activities? No, but he did say, “My house will be called a house of prayer” (Mark 11:17 NIV).
No other spiritual activity is guaranteed such results. “When two of you get together on anything at all on earth and make a prayer of it, my Father in heaven goes into action” (Matthew 18:19 MSG). He is moved by the humble, prayerful heart.
Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Pray for us, too, that God will give us many opportunities to speak about his mysterious plan concerning Christ. (Colossians 4:2–3 NLT)
God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, you created all that exists, and you keep it running through your infinite wisdom and boundless power. Yet you invite me to come to you in prayer, boldly and with the expectation that you will hear me and answer me. Teach me, Lord, to take full advantage of this amazing privilege, especially in regard to reaching others with your love. Give me a heart for those who have yet to experience the fullness of your grace, and prompt me to pray for them and for their welfare, both in this world and in eternity. Lord, bring me to the front lines of this battle. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.
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