31 Days of Prayer: Day 21 – Your prayers and God’s predestined plans

Revelation Incense“And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel.” (Rev 8:3-4)

Over the last couple of days, we’ve been thinking through the question of how prayer relates to the complete sovereignty of God. If God is really in charge, why pray? Do our prayers really change anything (other than us and our wills)? We introduced the question on Day 19, and yesterday we looked at the example of Moses praying to God in Exodus 32.

Today, we’ll try to bring some more clarity to this question by looking at Revelation 8 (yep, you read that right – clarity by looking at the book of Revelation!).  Read more of this post

31 Days of Prayer: Day 20 – Does God change his mind?

Prayer Changes Things“The Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.” (Ex 32:14)

Yesterday, we began to wrestle with a key question around the Bible’s teaching on prayer: ‘If God is completely sovereign, why should I pray?’ The question comes from the existence of two unavoidable biblical truths: God is in complete control of all things, and is working out his plans and purposes in deliberate fashion; yet prayer is not just encouraged throughout the Bible – it is commanded. Read more of this post

31 Days of Prayer: Day 19 – If God is sovereign, why do I pray?

Prayer 2“The Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people.” (Ex 32:14)

If you’re going to think about prayer, and if you’re reading your Bible carefully, sooner or later there’s an important question that might rub up against you: Does prayer really make a difference to a sovereign God?

It’s hard to read your Bible and come to any conclusion other than God is totally and utterly sovereign. He is in control of all things, everywhere. Moreover, his plan for salvation has been in place since ‘before the foundation of the world’ (Eph 1:4). He’s not sitting up in heaven, nervously wondering if things will turn out okay. Everything proceeds just as he planned. God is not a human being, that he should change his mind (1 Sam 15:29). Read more of this post

31 Days of Prayer: Day 18 – Prayer and Anxiety

Stress ManDo not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Phil 4:6)

I find there’s something strangely comforting about getting anxious. When I start to worry about the pressures of life that are weighing on me – relationships, money, workload, whether the Rabbitohs will win the Grand Final – retreating into the safe space of personal anxiety is a cosy little coping mechanism.

But you know what I don’t like to admit but I’ve realised is true? Anxiety isn’t just a coping mechanism or a safe place. Anxiety is sin. Anxiety is sin because anxiety is the opposite of actively trusting in God. Read more of this post

31 Days of Prayer: Day 17 – Why praying beats voting

NZ PM JOHN KEY MELBOURNE“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people — for kings and all those in authority…” (1 Tim 2:1-2)

Here in New Zealand, we’re just over a month away from our latest national election (September 20). It’s a strange thing – I’m not exactly excited about the election, but I should be. How many people in the world would give anything – how many people down through the years have given everything – for the right to vote as freely as I can? (That’s if I can be bothered, in a land of non-compulsory voting.) Read more of this post

31 Days of Prayer: Day 16 – A bestselling guide on how not to pray

Prayer of JabezIt may seem a bit mean-spirited and curmudgeonly to talk about prayer by being negative. After all, there are so many positive things to say. But sometimes, talking about the negative – refuting popular but unbiblical (mis)understandings of prayer – can help us to understand more of the truth about prayer.

In the last 15 years, one book on prayer has been more influential in mainstream Christian circles than any other: The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson.

The book was released in 2000, so its moment has passed. But its influence remains, and it continues to sell around the world (it’s now passed 10 million copies). Read more of this post

31 Days of Prayer: Day 15 – Stop telling people not to pray

Praying Family“When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” (Matt 6:7)

Over the years, whenever I’ve heard a prayer meeting of any kind being advertised, it’s usually introduced with this kind of caveat: “By the way, you don’t have to pray out loud or anything – just saying ‘Amen’ at the end of other people’s prayers is fine.”

‘You don’t have to pray out loud.’ Why do we say this? Read more of this post

31 Days of Prayer: Day 14 – Why doesn’t God answer my prayers?

Child Father's Hand“Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. This, then, is how you should pray: our Father in heaven…” (Matt 6:8-9)

One of the most confusing – and sometimes the most painful – aspects of prayer can be the reality of our ‘unanswered prayers’.

Put together some of the pieces that we’ve seen already in this series of brief reflections:

  • God is all-powerful – he can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine. Nothing is too hard for him.
  • God is perfectly loving, and he welcomes the prayers of his children. Through Jesus’ death for us, we have access to God and a relationship with him as Father, so we can approach with boldness and confidence.
  • God is not just like a good earthly father. He is the perfect Father, and he delights to give good things to his children when they ask.

Read more of this post

31 Days of Prayer: Day 13 – Approaching with confidence

Child Waking Parents“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven…’ (Matthew 6:9)

Yesterday, thanks to Tim Chester’s new book on prayer, we began looking at what it means for us to pray to God as Father. We focused on the simplicity that comes from knowing we can approach God in this way: “Prayer is a child asking her father for help – nothing more, nothing less” (You Can Pray, p. 16).

Today, I want us to think about the sense of intimacy and boldness that calling on God as Father allows us to have.

I’m the father of three small children. And like most parents of little ones, it’s not uncommon for our night’s sleep to be interrupted with a tap on the shoulder, a few tears, or a persistent whisper in the ear of ‘Dad, Dad!’ Maybe they’ve had a bad dream, or they’ve been woken up by a bump in the night and can’t get back to sleep. Read more of this post

31 Days of Prayer: Day 12 – Approaching God as Father

You Can Pray“This, then, is how you should pray: ‘Our Father in heaven…’ (Matthew 6:9)

If you’ve been a Christian for a while, starting your prayers with the words ‘heavenly Father’ (or some similar variation) may have become so customary that you don’t think about it much. If you’re not a Christian, the idea of referring to the Creator as ‘Father’ may seem bizarre, even wrong. And if you’re a new Christian, maybe you haven’t got your head around this name for God and you’re still defaulting to safer options like ‘Lord’ or just ‘God’.

I guess that covers just about everyone. Calling God ‘Father’ when we pray has the potential to be a strange, confusing, or empty Christian habit. But it should never be any of those things. Instead, we should pause daily and reflect on the mind-blowing idea that we can call the God of the Universe ‘Father’. Read more of this post

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