Shaken in Prayer

To begin with, I recognize that this post may not be well received due to the subject matter. I speak of prayer. Some would argue that prayer is a good thing and that they practice prayer in their homes and in their churches. Others ignore prayer because it is something that they seem to be afraid of being present in their lives.

One source defined prayer as – “a solemn request for help or expression of thanks addressed to God or an object of worship.”

As true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, we know that prayer to an object of worship or to any man-made deity is of no avail. Even as Christians, it is important that we come before God in prayer in the right manner or He will not hear us.

On the side of self-deprecation, I know I am NOT where I need to be (or should be) when it comes to the discipline of prayer. Prayer takes discipline and it is hard work. Part of this is because it opens us up the face of the Almighty.

Facing God in His own throne room is humbling and allows no tolerance for the pride of depraved creatures. If we think that we can approach God on our own terms and ask based on the whims of our desires instead of what the Holy Spirit utters from the depths of our innermost being, then we are duping ourselves.

When the Lord Jesus Christ was on earth, His prayers were addressed to the Father. Coming to the end of His earthly ministry, His sole prayer was, “Not my will, but Thine be done.”

During my weakness in body and having to adjust to the reality of vertigo, the matter of prayer has become more important to me. Maybe, one reason is simply because there are times that I am not able to do much but sit in my chair. The Lord being gracious to me has brought different individuals and situations to my mind and I have used my downtime to pray for them.

Sadly, having served in ministry for over 25 years, I find a horrifying reality is ever-present in our western churches. The reality is so horrendous that it is hard to believe that it would be uttered in more than very hushed tones in the deepest closets of our homes and churches. Yawning open like the whale’s mouth ready to engulf Jonah, it reveals nothing more than this:

The church as a whole does NOT want to pray!

“Whoa!” You, as the reader, would probably implore me to stop for a moment and reassess the situation. But ponder the difference in the church-at-large that we find in western circles and prayerfully, soberly, with weeping read these next three verses from Acts 4:31-33.

And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.

Please, take a moment and go back and re-read ALL THE BOLD parts that I have highlighted.

Dear brothers and sisters, the person that spends time with God in prayer is an oddity. I am, by no means, referring to a perfunctory and ever so brief blessing over our meals. I am referring to that odd person who has chosen to punctuate their days with effectual and fervent prayer.

In my fifty plus years, ten decades, half a century – I have NEVER been to a prayer meeting where the gathered group was SHAKEN IN PRAYER!

I say this to my shame because I was part of the group. There were times I would pray aloud, while at others, I would meditate and commune with God silently in my soul.

But, again I say that I have NEVER been SHAKEN IN PRAYER!

Is it impossible for us to comprehend such a matter in the 21st century? Are we so far removed from the power of the Holy Spirit that we have quenched Him into silence?

Is there any wonder that we do not see revival?

Is there any cause for concern that the last known true revivals have not taken place in the USA or the UK for 80-100 years? Revivals such as the Welsh Revival in 1905, the Revival of the Isle of Lewis around 1950, and the East Anglian Revival in my British home counties of Norfolk and Suffolk.

ALL of these revivals did not come because a notice was put on a billboard, advertising revivals taking place at 7pm each night. They did not come because an entertainment group was brought into the church and whipped everyone into an emotional frenzy.

REVIVAL ONLY COMES WITH FERVENT PRAYER!

James 5:16 is a shame to my own faith, or lack thereof, in my own testimony.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

Yet, our prayers far too often are merely a litany of petitions as we beg God for this and beg Him for that. We are like a child going up to Santa Claus at the local shopping mall with our little list and trying to use Him like a genie let loose from a bottle and desirous to give us our three wishes.

Today, we have not seen revival because we lack prayer. We struggle to maintain high levels of missions work because we lack prayer. The world demands our loyalty and our allegiance to their wicked degradations, and the church has long been bowing because they have no great power to give their testimony.

No prayer and we run like a scared dog being pursued by an army of soldier ants. My friends, we read the words of the wise King Solomon and wonder how ashamed he would be to see the redeemed of God turning this next verse on its head.

Pro 28:1 – The righteous flee when no one pursues, but the wicked are bold as a lion.

No, no, a thousand times NO!!! The verse does not read that way. The Holy Scriptures say this:

The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion.

However, the brutal, painful truth is this. If we have no prayer in our lives – if we have not taken to ourselves the WHOLE ARMOR of God – then we will flee when the world is not even taking time to pursue us. The wicked are bold as lions because they think that they can laugh at the God of heaven and His anointed.

His anointed is you and I, if your salvation is found by grace through faith alone in Christ alone. That means that He has called you and I to be holy ones. He has called us and preserved us by His Holy Spirit given as a down-payment against the inheritance that is to come in eternity.

Further, when we are His children, we are to pray, even when we do not know how to. Romans 8:26-28 says that He takes even the groanings of our heart before the Father AND intercedes on our behalf. When the Spirit is helping us in our weakness, there is no wrong prayer that we can offer to our heavenly Father.

Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Have we noticed that Romans 8:28 is not a standalone verse? It comes AFTER we begin to pray with the mind of the Spirit that we can then claim verse 28.

Why? Because those who love God will have all things work together for good.

Why? Because we are called according to His purpose. It is His way and His will that matters. Prayer is NOT about us and our wants and even our needs. It is about learning to pray in a way that matches the will of God on earth AS IT IS IN HEAVEN.

— To be continued —

The Original Revival Hymn

I found this video on a Christian brother’s website. Paul, thank you for posting this to your site. It is truly convicting and right in line with what I have been sharing on my posts about “Spiritual Vertigo.”

My Worth is Not in What I Own

In a world that prides itself on self-indulgence and the so-called ability to lift ourselves to new heights, we would do well to remember a short message from the apostle Paul. Speaking to the philosophers at the Aeropagus in Acts 17:24-28 told his listeners:

The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward Him and find Him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for in Him we live and move and have our being.”

My worth has NOTHING to do with me. The world says I must love myself first, take care of myself first, forgive myself first, but the Scriptures are clear that all we have and are is because of Christ and Him alone.

A Miserable Failure

In a previous post entitled, “Spiritual Vertigo”, I addressed three reasons why true believers, particularly in western evangelicalism, have entered a state where they have become disorientated. They struggle from week to week and from one Sunday morning worship to the next. The church has lost its balance and people are sick.

Sadly, for some believers, the change has been so gradual that they missed the warning signs. Now that their balance is off or their lives have become disorientated, they have become like the person born with sight in just one eye or with hearing in just one ear. Such individuals do not know what they are missing because they have never known the privilege of seeing with two eyes or hearing with two ears.

Many believers now live thinking that their view of God, eternity, or sound Biblical doctrine is crystal clear. Life continues each day as though that focus is on that which is heavenly, but they have become partially mute and blind to the wonders of the One whose name we claim as our own before the world.

Sometimes, true believers do not know why they are worshipping, but they make the effort. While the prophet Jeremiah reminded his listeners that the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked, we still refer to our heart as the seat of our emotions and particularly where we say we have our love for God. It is our heart that gets us in trouble and what we actually need is to follow the words of the apostle Paul in Romans 12:1-2,

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

During His earthly ministry, the Lord Jesus Christ quoted from Isaiah 29:13. Both the Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Matthew record His words as He addressed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the scribes. These were individuals who seemed to have all the answers, but something was missing.

Matthew 15:8-9, Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”

But, why or how does this happen?

Here are the three reasons that I gave, and in the balance of this post, it is my intention to focus just on the first point. Lord willing, in the near future, I will address the other two in greater length.

First, we fail to keep sight of the holiness, majesty, and glory of the almighty God.

Second, our vision of eternity is dulled because we become too focused on the world and what it has to offer.

Third, we become disorientated when we work harder to make the church appealing to unbelievers than we do in making the church a place for the sheep to come and find quiet waters and pastures where they can feed without the fear of wolves.

In my previous post, I gave a few quotes and I continue with three of those now.

A.W. Pink – Happy the soul that has been awed by a view of God’s majesty.

King David – Psalm 93:1, The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.

Jude – half-brother of Jesus Christ in his little book – Jude 25, To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

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Almost thirty-five years ago, I was touring London, England with a group of USAF servicemen. I had my film camera at the ready and we were making the rounds of the locations all tourists stop. One of the stops included Buckingham Palace. Walking ahead of the group, I noticed that the Royal Standard was being lowered, but gave it no more thought. Approaching a side gate, I stood alone and watched as a few very expensive cars pulled out of an archway and headed directly toward the gate that was in front of me.

To my amazement, the gate swung open and I watched dumbfounded as the entire Royal family passed no more than three feet from where I stood on the curbside. A couple of them waved as they passed. I was too shocked to remember that my camera was around my neck until they swept quickly out of view.

Yes, I can say that in that moment, I had not just seen the Royal family, but I had also seen Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. She had no idea who I was, but I had seen her and she had seen me. It was a thrilling moment as we looked at each other ever so briefly through the tinted windows of her luxury vehicle.

A couple of years later, I have a Scottish uncle who had a career working on submarines in conjunction with the Royal Navy. For his work, he was invited to Buckingham Palace to receive a special medal and be knighted. The ceremony took place with great pomp and fanfare. Each recipient of an award had to be dressed in very formal attire and each person invited was expected to behave in a very dignified manner. I was privileged to see some of the pictures of the event in which my uncle had the privilege of being recognized for his work by none other than Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

After the person receives their award, Her Majesty takes a few moments to interact with the recipient on a personal basis and by name. Many have commented that this personal touch often means more than the award itself.

The difference between my encounter with the Queen and that of my uncle was worlds apart.

I stood OUTSIDE the gates of the palace. The queen never knew who I was. And, I was dressed in jeans and wearing a dark brown leather jacket. There was nothing significant that took place that day. I had done nothing to warrant a personal meeting with Her Majesty.

On my uncle’s part, he went INSIDE the palace. He was part of a garden party after. He personally met and spoke with the Queen and she spoke with him. My uncle was dressed in formal attire and his wife was dressed like a proper lady complete with fancy hat. It was a significant event because his work had warranted the personal meeting. He was there because his presence was requested by the government and the Palace.

Everything about the meeting is choreographed except for the personal interaction with the Queen who maintains the prerogative to say or ask whatever she wishes to each individual recipient. However, the invitation, the travel to and into the Palace, the meeting with the General Lord Chamberlain as he gives final directions, and even the walk through the halls of the Palace – there is nothing flippant or untoward as each person prepares (and is prepared) to come face to face with the monarch of the United Kingdom.

What an amazing honor it would be to receive an invitation!

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Yet, as a true believer, we have been granted a much higher honor.

No longer clothed in the filthy rags of our own self-importance and failed attempts in attaining righteousness, the holy God of all creation has brought us into the Palace and counts us as His children. We are no longer children of the evil one. Taking away the stench of our wickedness, He has clothed us with the impeccable, white garments of His own Son, Jesus Christ.

Christ invites us to dine with Him as He supplies all of our needs, and at times, He even gives us some of the desires of our heart.

Like the account of the prodigal son in Luke’s gospel, our Heavenly Father also outfits us with all the trappings that reflect our parentage. Weapons and armor are freely provided in order to protect us against the attacks of the evil one. This includes the breastplate of righteousness and the sword of the Spirit.

My uncle received an invitation one time, but our King has written the most beautiful love letter to us. Through this love letter, the Bible, He converses with us at any time we come before His presence. Even when we take the time to memorize portions of this letter, His Word promises that He is there.

A trip to Buckingham Palace is normally a once-in-a-lifetime honor and experience. Yet, dear readers, our King has NOT left us comfortless. The Holy Spirit remains with us forever as a down-payment on our inheritance. Further, we need no appointments or invitations to visit the throne room of heaven. It is ours to go to anytime, any day, and for any reason.

When we arrive, we get to walk right by the angels who can never know the joy of salvation. Approaching the throne itself, we have the right and the privilege of walking up and addressing the King as “Abba” or “Father.”

And, He takes the time and deigns to hear our petitions!

How was all of this possible? Because He gave His only begotten Son.

To whom is this available? That whosoever believes in Him may come and drink freely.

Investiture is defined as the action of formally investing a person with honors or rank.

What is the investiture to those who believe? We shall not perish. We now have eternal life. The justice and wrath we deserved was poured out on Jesus Christ. Because of His blood that He shed, we have been granted all of these wonders.

This and more should cause us to rejoice that our names have been written for time and eternity in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

Why?

Jude 25, To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Now ask yourself this –

1. Does our worship retain this kind of sight of the Almighty God?
2. What has caused our vision to fail?
3. Is our collective worship a reflection of this kind of God?
4. Is our worship dulled because of man-made traditions that take the focus off of Christ and put it on self-centered man?
5. Does every aspect of our worship point to this kind of God?
6. Pastors and teachers, do those who hear us have this view of God when they leave? Or, do they only remember the illustrations, pithy little stories, and the lightheartedness designed to make the world feel better about themselves?
7. When we come before the Communion Table, what is our attitude and focus?

It does not take much for our sight to become dull and our lives to become disorientated. When this occurs, our delight is no longer in God, but in what we think we must have in order for life to work for us. Even what we consider collective worship can leave us disorientated if we are not vigilant and striving to constantly be reminded of Who we serve.

May our hearts be encouraged with a fresh look at the Savior today. May we be blessed with the recollection of all the heavenly benefits that belong to us.

A Hymn from Psalm 130

Our precious Savior said the following words in Matthew 11:28-30.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

It echoes the words from King David in Psalm 130.

A Song of Ascents. Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared. I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning. O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.

Spiritual Vertigo

Vertigo is defined as “a sensation of whirling and loss of balance, associated particularly with looking down from a great height, or caused by disease affecting the inner ear or the vestibular nerve; giddiness. It can cause loss of balance, ringing in the ears, nausea, and disorientation.”

Two weeks ago, I woke up and began what seemed like a normal day. Less than an hour later, something went pear-shaped in my head. Extreme dizziness and violent retching overtook my body. By the fifth day, I paid a visit to a local Urgent Care.

After a preliminary check by a nurse, then another staff member, a doctor entered the room. They ran some additional tests for various flus and viruses. All came back negative, and the result was that I had vertigo.

There is a first time for everything. Despite having had malaria and typhoid twice while we served in Liberia, this was completely different. Every day that I wake up, my world whirls and spins as I try to recalibrate. I can now sit in my chair, but again each move has to be calculated or my stomach starts to churn and the world constantly spins.

I am disorientated. To use the medical definition for disorientation, I have a condition that causes me to feel as though I have lost my sense of direction.

As I have been pondering this new condition, it has made me think more about spiritual matters. Sometimes, the only thing I can do is close my eyes and pray for others while waiting for the world to stop spinning.

This diagnosis makes me realize that there is a spiritual connection, in that, there are some within the church who have spiritual vertigo.

They have lost their balance, or something is making them sick, or it may be that they have become disorientated. Some within evangelical churches have lost their sense of direction.

But, why or how does this happen?

First, we fail to keep sight of the holiness, majesty, and glory of the almighty God.

Listen to the words of those whose sight was not dimmed when they wrote the following thoughts.

C.S. LewisA man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.

John PiperIf you don’t see the greatness of God then all the things that money can buy become very exciting. If you can’t see the sun you will be impressed with a street light. If you’ve never felt thunder and lightning you’ll be impressed with fireworks. And if you turn your back on the greatness and majesty of God you’ll fall in love with a world of shadows and short-lived pleasures.

A.W. PinkHappy the soul that has been awed by a view of God’s majesty.

King DavidPsalm 93:1, “The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.

Jude – half-brother of Jesus Christ in his little book – Jude 25, To the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Second, our vision of eternity is dulled because we become too focused on the world and what it has to offer.

My dear readers, there is absolutely NOTHING the world offers that will compare with the riches that await us in Christ and in heaven. It is easy for those who are seated with Christ in the heavenlies to become dizzy and disorientated when they gaze longingly down to the mud and muck offered by the world.

Missionary and martyr Jim Elliott wrote in his diary, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

Third, we become disorientated when we work harder to make the church appealing to unbelievers than we do in making the church a place for the sheep to come and find quiet waters and pastures where they can feed without the fear of wolves.

This third point is a sad fact in far too many churches that claim the name of Christ today. Instead of being focused on preaching, teaching, and prayer, we have become centers for socialization or programs.

Pastors and teachers, if our time dissolves each week because of all the things we think we have to do instead of what God requires, then we cannot be surprised when our churches begin to look more like a worldly business.

True believers need to come together for worship remembering that Jesus Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords. Every aspect is to be about Him. Church is not meant to be a well-oiled piece of machinery at the expense of seeing Him who is above all.

Every Sunday, across our land, true believers gather. They need encouragement, exhortation, and edification. They come hurting physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Like soldiers on the battlefield, they are bruised and broken from fighting the evil one and his minions. There should be one inviolable focus and goal for every person who preaches or teaches.

“The goal for every true believer is to be more like Jesus Christ today than we were yesterday, and more like Him tomorrow than we are today.”

Anything more or less than this is a disservice to the hearts and minds of true believers. When we ponder the state of the persecuted church, it becomes easier to see how far we have slipped. People in our western bastions of evangelicalism are not ready for persecution. We refuse to see it coming because the world has disorientated us to the point where we think they walk the road of life with us hand-in-hand.

May we be encouraged to stand fast and once again follow the command of the apostle Paul to the church in Colosse.

“Set your affections on things above, and not things of the earth.”