Praying for God’s Will

The Heidelberg Catechism: Lord’s Day 49

124. Question: What is the third petition?

Answer: Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. That is: Grant that we and all men may deny our own will, and without any murmuring obey Thy will, for it alone is good.[1] Grant also that everyone may carry out the duties of his office and calling[2] as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.[3]

[1] Matt. 7:21; 16:24-26; Luke 22:42; Rom. 12:1, 2; Tit. 2:11, 12. [2] I Cor. 7:17-24; Eph. 6:5-9. [3] Ps. 103:20, 21.

Prayer Journal: Week 43

When our requests are such as honor God, we may ask as largely as we will. The more daring the request, the more glory accrues to God when the answer comes. (A.W. Tozer)

This Week’s Scripture

  • Genesis 24:34-67
  • Psalm 72   
  • Romans 7:15-25    
  • Matthew 11:16-30

Adoration

Psalm 72:18-19
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
    who alone does wondrous things.
19 Blessed be his glorious name forever;
    may the whole earth be filled with his glory!

My Hope Is Built (verse 1)
My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ the solid rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand.

(Edward Mote)

Take time now to offer God your praise and worship.

Confession

 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:22-25a)

Blot out, we humbly beseech Thee, O Lord, our past transgression; forgive our negligence and ignorance; help us to amend our mistakes and to repair our misunderstandings; and so uplift our hearts in new love and dedication, that we may be unburdened from the grief and shame of past faithlessness, and go forth to serve Thee with renewed courage and devotion; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (Author unknown)


As David did in Psalm 139, ask the Lord to search you and know you through and through. Confess the sins God brings to mind, knowing you are forgiven and that He will cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

Thanksgiving

God of compassion, so often I am restless, stressed, and without peace in this world. Like Martha, I often find myself worried about a great many things. Yet I know this is not your desire for me. Moreover, you have provided for me all the resources of heaven to give me far better that that. That’s why I am so grateful for the words of my Lord Jesus who told me to come to him for he will give me rest. He commands me, even today, to take his yoke and learn from him, for he is gentle and lowly in heart and in him will my soul find rest, here and for all eternity. I praise you, O God, for his easy yoke and light burden. Please teach and enable me to live in them this day and everyday throughout the rest of my life. Amen. (based on Matthew 11:28-30)


Spend some time reflecting on the prayer of thanksgiving above and then thank God for who he is and the many ways he has poured out his goodness and grace in your life.

Supplication (Petitions – prayers for yourself)

  • My personal mission field
  • Help me to identify those people who make up my personal mission field.
  • Enable me to begin sharing the gospel with those who do not yet know you.
  • Empower me to disciple those who are young in their faith.
  • Allow me to encourage those who are struggling in their faith.
  • Please give me perseverance in all areas of ministry.
  • Today’s events and interactions with others, planned and unplanned
  • Other needs

Supplication (Intercession – prayers for others)

  • My family
  • For missionaries throughout the world
  • For those seeking to faithfully minister to loved ones at home
  • For those who share the gospel in the inner city
  • For those who bear witness to Christ in places of power
  • Other needs

All men desire peace, but very few desire those things that make for peace. (Thomas A Kempis)

Daily Surrenders

The Dilemma

No person fails on purpose. Yet, spiritual, and moral failures abound. A few years ago, I taught a lesson to my church’s men’s group which focused on temptations men face. The workbook we were using quoted C.S. Lewis on this subject and was a turning point for many in the group. Lewis wrote,

It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the person away from the light and out into the nothing… Indeed, the safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

The truth communicated by Lewis rang true. It reminded me of something a former mentor of mine once said. He emphasized repeatedly that compromise comes through the smallness of our daily surrenders.

It’s giving up that little bit of personal conviction each day. It’s the little piece of candy no one will ever know you ate. It’s watching that program or visiting that website when you are all alone. You get the picture.

Usually the first surrender to “small, insignificant sins” makes it easier to fall prey to them again and again. The damage comes from the “cumulative effect” Lewis was pointing to. Few people wake up in the morning planning to sin spectacularly later in the day. Yet those daily surrenders build up over time. Give a little ground here and there and before you know it, you’re in trouble. In fact, you become practically unrecognizable, even to yourself. You didn’t plan for this to happen, but those daily surrenders were enough to do the trick.

The Solution

Therefore, we must be vigilant. We need to work from the foundation of knowing who we are in Christ. We need to count ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus (Romans 6:11). Those “daily surrenders” needn’t reign over us. The same Spirit who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead dwells in us as well.

Yet, we also need to exercise the self-awareness that recognizes those areas in our lives wherein we are weak. Every person ought to ask himself or herself: Am I being less watchful in some areas of my life than others? Even the small, seemingly insignificant areas? Am I overly confident I would never again fall prey to that particular temptation? A member of my church used to remind me often, “to be forewarned is to be forearmed.”

If you want to avoid those small daily surrenders, then pray for God to deliver you from temptation. But don’t forget to do your part. Name those temptations in advance. Talk with a godly person you trust and ask them to hold you accountable. Renew your mind daily in God’s Word. The Apostle Paul shared God’s wisdom on this point when he wrote in Philippians 4:8-9,

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

What are you thinking on?

Walking Points

  • What are those areas in your life that tempt you the most?
  • How do they usually “sneak up” on you?
  • What are some ways you can see such temptations before they get to you?
  • What are some practical things you can do to resist them once you’re confronted with them?
  • Set an appointment today with a Christian brother or sister and ask him to pray for you and to help keep you accountable.

Prayer

Merciful and patient Lord, I don’t want to sin. I don’t want to “fail on purpose.” Yet I confess to you that I have not always put in place or practiced those wise spiritual disciplines that would draw me ever closer to you and protect me from the snares of the devil and my own fleshly weaknesses. Please forgive me and renew me. As David cried out, put a right spirit within me. Give me such a desire for you that turning away from you would be the last thing on my mind. Give me greater Spirit-enabled self-discipline and self-control to practice those means of grace you have given to your children to help us conform more and more to the likeness of your Son, our Lord and Savior. For it’s in his name and for his sake I pray. Amen.

What’s Your Reputation?

He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap. (1 Timothy 3:7)

You have probably heard the definition of character as, “who you are when no one is looking.” You could also say that character is who you are when those who know you best are looking.

In the second chapter of The Measure of a Man, Gene Getz looks at what it takes to build a good reputation. This is rather a tricky area because some folks may enjoy a good reputation superficially because they’re able to reasonably fake it before people they don’t know well and with whom they associate only on an occasional basis. But living a life that builds a good reputation is hard to fake on a regular basis with those who know you best… such as the members of your family.

Let me hasten to add that the expectation here is not perfection. As one person I recently read put it, the idea here is direction, not perfection. The question is: Are you moving in a Christlike direction in your life? Is that your intention?

In our Scripture, Paul recommends to Timothy that the kind of person he should be looking for to exercise leadership in the church ought to have a good reputation. Christians are charged with hypocrisy enough as it is. And even if the charge isn’t always accurate, the mere perception can derail a life or a ministry. Worse still, we don’t want to misrepresent our Lord before a watching world.

Getz suggests that Timothy was such a person… a man with a good reputation. He highlights these three  indicators…

1. People were saying positive things about Timothy.
2. More than one person was saying these positive things about Timothy.
3. People in more than one location were saying these positive things about Timothy.

It seems wherever Timothy was and whomever he was with, Timothy was a godly man living above reproach. Thus, he enjoyed a good reputation.

Ask Someone

Getz suggests that if you really want to know your reputation (as it relates to your genuine character) ask someone who knows you best. This might sting a little, but it’s a good way to get an honest and accurate perception of who you are… and it will go a long way in helping you become the godly person you want to become.

Ask Yourself

Just as important, we occasionally need to conduct a personal assessment of who we are and what we’re about. Getz suggests asking yourself the following questions (these are great questions, by the way)

1. Do more and more people select me as a person to share their lives with?

2. Do people trust me with confidential information?

3. Do my relationships with people grow deeper and more significant the longer they know me and the closer they get to me? Or do my friendships grow strained and shallow as people learn what I am really like?

4. Does my circle of friends grow continually wider and larger? Do an increasing number of people trust me?

5. Do people recommend me for significant or difficult tasks without fear of my letting them down?

The point in all of this is not to build a reputation by duplicity and manipulation. To be sure, there are plenty of people doing that. Instead, our goal should be that as we grow in godliness, the authenticity of our increasingly Christlike character will be made evident to all. And that’s how we can represent our Lord well in this world.

Ultimately, those of us who are in Christ are seeking to advance the glory of our Lord’s reputation, and not our own. But we can’t avoid the connection that our reputation will be linked to his, so let us live lives above reproach and for his praise and glory.

Moving On to Maturity

Facing the Music

About eight months after I graduated from college I went back to visit a few friends who were still there. I also returned to share with them the news that God had called me into ordained ministry and I would be heading off to seminary soon. I was very excited. I was also a bit nervous. Why was I nervous? Well, I had not always lived a godly life while in college. I knew it and I knew my friends and fraternity brothers knew it.

What happened? Well, my closest friends thought my news was great and wished me well. Others laughed me out of the room. I absolutely deserved it.

Glory to God

I give glory to God, and God alone, that over three decades later I can point to real change in my life. And, as the old saying goes, while I’m not where I pray I will one day be in my faith, by God’s grace I’m not where I once was. I don’t know if I was the chief of sinners way back then, but I certainly was competing for the title. That fact makes the following words from Paul all the more precious to me.

Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:15b-16)

If God could work in Paul’s life, as well as my own, then he can work in any person’s life. I praise God for the truth and power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to change lives.

Where Are You?

So where are you now compared to where you once were? Do too many of the descriptions in the New Testament of the unbelieving world still describe you? Are you moving on to maturity with Christ, training yourself for godliness day by day? The progressive nature of growing in Christlikeness means it will never end on this side of heaven. But faithfulness to Christ does require we get started. We start with rebirth. We continue by growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ through the power of God’s grace and Spirit. Are you moving forward? Have you started yet?

Walking Points

  • Can you think of a Christian you know whose life is different than when you first knew them? What about them has changed?
  • How about your own life? Can you identify areas in your life that are markedly different than when you first came to know Christ? What are those areas? Did they change all at once or was it a slow process?
  • How did you know you needed to change? How did the process take place (i.e., what did the change look like)?
  • Name two or three areas that are still “works in progress.” What are you actively doing to become more like Christ in those areas?
  • Discuss these issues with two or three brothers in Christ and actively pray for one another.

Prayer

Gracious God, you are the Lord of our lives. I confess that all too often I resist obeying and following you and resist the change you desire. I am grateful for your patience with me and for the wonderful news of your Gospel. Move me, by the power of your Spirit, to pursue you for all I am worth, for surely in that pursuit I will also find myself becoming more like you. Help me to find Christian brothers who also seek to walk with you and help us to build up and pray for one another. Enable me to grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ, encourage other men to do the same, and bring glory to your name. In Christ I pray. Amen.