“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB).
1) How Do We Pray? (Matt Arnold)
2) “Turning a Stray” (Dan Shipley)
How Do We Pray?
There are many ways in which each of us could answer this question. Before we try to tell ourselves that God is satisfied with our prayer, let’s take an honest look at what we’re doing and compare it to a few passages in the Bible that show us what God expects.
James 5:16 says “The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.” I believe we sometimes skim over this without realizing the gravity of that statement. Based on this short phrase, and an even shorter phrase in 1 Thess. 5:17, I’d like to look at the “Three Qs” of prayer.
Quality- Now this doesn’t mean that every prayer we say to the Lord must be perfectly eloquent or long, but it does mean that when we talk to God, we should want to really talk to God. Prayer, while it should be something we participate in often, shouldn’t be routine or common. It is a wonderful gift, and I think far too often we take it for granted. Be mindful of what it is you’re saying to God when you approach the throne. Are we praising Him? Thanking Him? Confessing to Him? Asking for spiritual strength? There are a lot of things we might pray about that wouldn’t particularly be considered effective, as James laid out. Let’s reconsider the things we say and the way in which we say them to God.
Quantity- There isn’t a number given to us for how many times we ought to pray each day. I’m happy about that; because I believe that if there were, we would be tempted to make it habitual and meaningless. But Paul does instruct us to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 5:17). This doesn’t mean we must have a constant prayer running all day long. What Paul is saying to us is that we should never give up prayer. It is such a powerful tool that God has given us, and it should be the first thing we do when faced with a problem, or with a wonderful blessing. When we look at people like Nehemiah, David, Daniel, Paul, Peter, and Jesus, we see they are consistently communicating with God! Quantity, or the amount you pray, is really more about your entire attitude toward communication with God. The amount of times that you earnestly and sincerely talk to God will reflect the place He has in your life.
Qualifiers- Let’s not fool ourselves and think that everyone’s prayers are answered indiscriminately by God. If we aren’t in a right relationship with God, He is not obligated to answer our prayers. We may claim to be a Christian, but if we aren’t truly following Him or if our hearts are in the wrong place, it’s not guaranteed that He will give us what we request. Thankfully, if we are living and striving in a way that pleases God, James gives us reassurance in the power of our prayer. James 1:5-8 contrasts the double-minded man and the humble servant in their requests. James again qualifies prayer in James 5:16. There are three, which I emphasized. Effectiveness goes back into the quality of what we are saying to God, whether it is vain repetition or fervent supplication. Righteous here refers to the state of the man’s soul when praying, his relationship with God. And then James says it can accomplish much. That is a reference to the power of the One to whom we are praying.
The 3 Qs are something I think about a lot, but it can be difficult to apply without specifics or some guidelines to get us thinking about the different things we ought to be praying about. So, continuing with alliteration, this is a list I saw in a sermon several years ago; and I wrote it down because I found it very helpful. I’m hoping you do as well.
Purpose- Sometimes we begin to wonder why we matter or what we should be doing with our lives. God knows, ask Him.
Pals- Friends, family, etc. Praying for their needs and their safety can help them more than we know.
Personal- Time to talk about our needs, blessings, and growth. We can’t be afraid to get really intimate with God, because after all, He already knows. But He wants us to talk to Him about it.
Purity- Whether mental, sexual, or spiritual, this is something we have to address when we come before God. Remember the prayer of David, “Create in me a clean heart, O God…” (Psalm 51:10).
Possessions- It’s not wrong to pray about the physical things you have or need, but what I mean here is really the attitude with which you talk to God about money and your other blessings. Ask Him to help you be a good steward.
Pointers- We must always ask God for advice or help when faced with a problem. He has the solution, and He has made it known that He is willing to help. Let’s overcome our pride and realize that we cannot rely upon ourselves like we can rely upon God.
Perspective- Going back to James 1, we need to ask God for wisdom. When kneeling before the throne, ask for God’s wisdom and His help in seeing life the way we ought to. This past year, I had a lot of issues with my perspective on life, and after a lot of asking for the wrong things the wrong ways, I finally came back to this list and saw that I’d been going about my communication with God all wrong.
I hope and pray that this was helpful to you, and remember that I keep you all in my prayers.
— Via articles of the Danville church of Christ, Danville, Kentucky, April 6, 2016
“Turning a Stray”
The bank just presented me with my annual dividend — a new wall calendar. I like it. Mostly, I guess, because it features a western scene. Its central figure is a hard riding cowboy attempting to turn a galloping steer back to the herd. The painting is appropriately called, “Turning a stray.” As I reflected on this scene and its title, it brought to mind another kind of stray — one whose plight ought to be the concern of every faithful Christian.
The spiritual stray represents one of the oldest and most perplexing problems among God’s people. Scarcely a congregation has escaped his hurtful effects, not to mention what he does to himself. Many have agonized over solutions. What can we do? Well, regardless of what we decide, it may be helpful to ponder his plight for a moment. How does one get to be a stray to start with? Obviously, it is not a deliberate thing, as the world itself indicates. Another word describing the same process is the word “drift” as found in Hebrews 2:1. In this context (verses 1-3) we find a clue, not only to the cause of this condition, but to its cure as well: “Therefore we ought to give more earnest heed to the things that were heard, lest haply we drift away from them…how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation…?” It is not that one plans to stray and many are a long time in realizing they have. Herein we see the deceptiveness of this gradual and almost unconscious process. It always begins with a slight loss of spiritual appetite; a little less interest; and a bit less involvement — almost imperceptible at first, not only to the stray but to his undiscerning brethren as well.
In fact, what we normally consider to be the first sign of drifting may be nearer the last — and that is absenteeism from Bible classes and worship services. This may be due to a faulty concept of faithfulness; one that is more oriented to the church than to the Lord. While it is true that faithfulness involves our presence in assemblies, it does not follow that merely attending services makes one faithful. Being in the pew and in the faith are not the same. Lips that say “Lord, Lord,” even from the pew, mean very little when the heart is far from Him (Matthew 15:8). And such a heart is where the problem begins. In spiritual deterioration the heart is always the first to go. So it is the straying heart and not so much its symptoms that must be dealt with if meaningful changes are to be effected. And this brings us back to the remedy suggested in our context.
The key to faithfulness is giving heed to “the things that were heard”; the Word of God — and the “more earnest” the better. The more one’s attention is on God’s truth, the less apt he is to stray. Not only will this keep one with God, it will restore the stray (if anything will). You might say that heeding truth will keep us from turning astray and at the same time help us turn a stray. Only an appeal to truth can bring men to God or return men to Him. With it we can instruct, remind and admonish; but it is our only power to turn a stray. The need is to heed!
— Via the University Heights Messenger, Volume 8, Number 17 (April 24, 2016), Lexington, Kentucky
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith, living for the Lord; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA 31501
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 5 PM (worship)
Wednesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 281-9917
http://thomastedwards.com/go (Older version of Gospel Observer website without pictures)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)