Posts Tagged Jesus

An Explanation for Unanswered Prayer?

21 April 2012

In Matt. 13:3-23, Jesus gives the parable of the sower who throws his seed out onto various types of soil. Most of the seeds don’t stick for various reasons; some do and bear fruit. Jesus states to his (confused) disciples that He’s speaking of the Kingdom of Heaven and the seed of the gospel on men’s heart.

But I’ve often felt there’s a similarity between the sower in this story and the intercessor who sows the seeds of prayer. When you’re praying for people going through a rough time — illness, loss of job, etc. — it seems that the more receptive they are to divine intervention in their lives, the more open their hearts are to the moving of the Holy Spirit, and the more apt they are to receive a miracle or a breakthrough in their lives.

And even if a breakthrough or miracle doesn’t arrive, those people seem to be given extra grace to survive or handle their situation with strength and fortitude.

The least receptive and most self-sufficient “sufferers” — even among Christians — seem to continue simmering in their problems with no apparent breakthrough unless there’s a turning point within their heart. Perhaps this sounds judgmental. I don’t mean for it to be. It’s just something I’ve observed in my own prayer times and as a result of my own frustration with unanswered prayers, both directed at situations in my own life and prayer for others.

So, ask yourself, Am I being receptive and open-minded when it comes to the prayers of others for me and my life or have I hardened my heart a bit — because I think I can get out of this or handle this situation on my own? Or maybe because I have given up or feel like I deserve punishment and don’t deserve to be blessed?

With prayer, persistence is key (remember the parable of the widow who kept knocking?) but at the same time we must acknowledge that the human will plays a key part. God will not force anyone to salvation, to faith or even to blessing. We must open our heart’s door to Him.

Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me. — Revelation 3:20

The Crown Jewels

17 April 2012

This segment of PrayerWalk London takes you from the Tower of London’s Opening Ceremony through the Crown Jewels in the Jewel Tower.

Jewel House Entrance

Once inside the front gates, resist the temptation to go on the first yeoman warder’s tour. Instead, go directly to the Crown Jewels exhibit. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200 just go directly – go, go, go! – to the Crown Jewels. You’ll enter the Jewel House just under the clock in the Waterloo Barracks.

The lines inside the Jewel House have a bit of a Disneyland feel. Large electronic screens on either side of the anti-chamber play scenes from the last coronation to date, that of Elizabeth II, to entertain the waiting hordes. But because you were very smart and came early, you will not be one of them! You can breeze through at the speed of light to the Crown Jewels exhibit.

In this room are displayed the regalia, scepters, orbs and swords used for coronations and other ceremonies of state. The value of the objects in this room is inestimable. They have been used through the centuries and are still in use today; in fact, it is not unusual to find one of the swords missing because it is in use that day for a knighting.

As to the age of the jewels, when Oliver Cromwell acceded to power as Lord Protector in 1653, he ordered the jewel collection of his predecessors – those powerful symbols and reminders of the monarchy – be destroyed, melted down and dismantled. Therefore, most of the regalia on display today date from 1661 and the reign of Charles II, whose first order of business was to replenish the royal jewel collection.

The Crown Jewels are displayed in five glass cases. Visitors pass them on a sort of moving sidewalk. No photos are allowed. When you’re done, hop off and have another go at the moving sidewalk, congratulating yourself once again on beating the crowds.

Be sure to notice:

  • St. Edward’s Crown. This is the crown that the Archbishop of Canterbury places on the monarch’s head at the moment of coronation. It weighs nearly five pounds and contains 443 precious and semiprecious stones.
  • The Sovereign’s Scepter. The largest cut diamond in the world, Cullinan I (a.k.a. the First Star of Africa) is set in this scepter. The diamond weighs 530 carats.
  • The Imperial State Crown. Used annually by Queen Elizabeth II for the State Opening of Parliament, this spectacular crown contains the legendary “Stuart Sapphire,” the “Black Prince’s Ruby” and “Queen Elizabeth’s Pearls.” It includes 2,868 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires and 11 emeralds.
  • The Crown of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother. This crown contains the famous Koh-i-Noor diamond from India, which weighs 106 carats. It belonged to the Queen Mother, who died in 2002.
  • Queen Victoria’s Diamond Crown. A tiny crown, it weighs only 4 ounces and was commissioned in 1870 by special request of Queen Victoria. It cost £50,000 to make.
  • The Anointing Spoon. The oldest surviving piece of regalia on display in the Jewel Room, the anointing spoon is from the 12th century and is used to pour holy oil.

Point to Ponder. Crown him with many crowns, the Lamb upon His throne! As you gaze at these emblems and symbols of the Kings and Queens of England, consider the glorious upcoming ceremony of the Coronation of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Consider the words of Revelation 19:12, “… and on His head were many crowns.”

Prayerwalking: How to Pray

25 November 2011

These suggestions for prayer will apply whether you are prayerwalking in your own neighborhood or cities around the world. The following prayer points are excerpts from Prayerwalking by Steve Hawthorne and Graham Kendrick (Creation House 1993)

1. Concerning Christ

 Proclaim him to be the one Mediator and the ransom for all. Name him Lord of the neighborhood and of the lives you see.

2. Concerning leaders

Pray for people in positions of authority — for teachers, police, administrators and parents.

3. Concerning peace

Cry out for the godliness and holiness of God’s people to increase into substantial peace. Pray for new churches to be established.

4. Concerning truth

Declare openly the bedrock reality that there is one God.

Pray that minds would cease to be blinded by Satan so that they could come to a knowledge of the truth.

5. Concerning the gospel

Praise God for his heart’s desire that all people be saved.

Ask that heaven would designate this year as a “proper time” for the testimony of Christ to be given afresh with simple power (I Tim 2:6)

6. Concerning the blessing of God

Give God the thanks he deserves for the goodness he constantly bestows on the homes you pass by.

Ask to see the city with his eyes, that you might sense what is good and pleasing in his sight as well as what things grieve him deeply.

Ask God to bring forth an enduring spiritual awakening.

7. Concerning the Church

Ask for healing in relationships, that there be no wrath or dissension among God’s people.

Ask that God would make his people, men and women alike, expressive in worship with the substance of radiant, relational holiness.

Prayer Focus: China & the One Child Policy

10 April 2011

China is the world’s most populous nation with 1.3 billion people. To stem the country’s birth rate and conserve natural resources, Chinese government officials instituted a drastic family planning policy in the late 1970s that restricted the number of births in each family to only one child. This policy, generally known as the “one child policy,” is still in place today.

By all accounts, the one child policy has been effective: China’s fertility rate (the number of births per woman) is 1.7, much lower than in the U.S. where it is 2.1. The U.S. State Department has said that the law has had “extremely negative social, economic, and human rights consequences” for China.

“The Chinese government estimates that since 1979 it has prevented the birth of 400 million babies”

The extent of the Chinese government’s control and interference in family life and family planning also worries many human rights advocates. But the Chinese government and others in the international community see conservation of natural resources as a higher priority. The Chinese government estimates that since 1979 it has prevented the birth of 400 million babies and says the family planning policy has aided the nation’s rapid economic development.

Prayer Points

  • Pray that couples would respect the inherent worth and dignity of each child, regardless of gender, from conception to adulthood.
  • Pray that families who live in fear of government sanctions for having extra children will find peace in Jesus Christ.
  • Pray that Christian couples who see no other option but to obey the government’s family planning orders or become social pariah will find the courage and wisdom to do what is right.
  • Pray that despite the lack of churches, Christian training, and even Bibles, Christian couples will have an understanding of the biblical position concerning abortion.
  • Pray for the emotional and physical healing of women who have been coerced into having abortions.
  • Pray that those in desperate need of counsel in a country where seeking emotional counseling is not culturally acceptable will receive words of encouragement and wisdom from godly men and women.
  • Pray for healing for couples dealing with the effects of forced sterilization.
  • Pray that abortion and infanticide will stop.
  • Pray that abandoned baby girls will be adopted into Christian homes where they can learn about Jesus and be discipled by godly parents.

For more information on the one child policy and government-imposed sanctions for parents with more than one child, see PrayerWalk Beijing.

A Matter of Perspective

26 October 2010

Those who have experienced depression will tell you it’s like a light switch has been turned off in their soul. “Just get over it” is not an option. Thinking positive thoughts simply doesn’t cut it.

I’ve often wondered if Jesus is talking about depression when he makes reference to “how great is that darkness” in the passage below:

“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!” Matt. 6:22-23 (NIV)

Like so many passages in the Bible, this one can be taken literally and figuratively. If your eyes are bad (i.e. if you are blind) then all you can see is darkness; if your eyesight is good, you can see bright sun, blue sky, leafy trees – your whole perspective changes.

I think of the recently rescued Chilean miners. They were in darkness for 69 long, hot, scary days. When they were finally lifted to the light, they had to put on sunglasses even indoors to shield their sensitive eyes, especially from the bright lights of the TV cameras wanting to capture their every move.

How bright the world seems to those who have been in darkness! How full of joy and optimism the miners’ hearts were as they were literally rescued and brought from darkness to light!

“I buried 40 years of my life down there,” said Mario Sepulveda, one of the miners. “I think I have learned a lot of wonderful lessons about taking the good path in life.”

The same is true when God rescues us from the figurative darkness of ignorance and sin. Our hearts are overjoyed when we first begin to grasp the light of salvation and the hope, peace, and joy that come as part of the “complete package.”

But sometimes even as Christians our perspective slips. Our eyes grow dark again; we go through times of depression and sadness that nothing seems to help. Where is the One who will rescue us? How great is that darkness.

Even King David, a man after God’s own heart, cried out: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? Look on me and answer, O Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death.” Psalm 13:1,3 (emphasis mine)

But God does not leave us in the miry pit.

Whether you fall into a literal pit or a figurative one, God is there to lift you out. Hold on! Don’t lose hope! The Rescuer is on His way.

An Appetite for God

27 September 2010

If your prayer time were the only gauge of your spiritual health, how would you fare?

I’ve sat on this piece for about a week. Just writing on the topic was convicting to me when I think of how much of my day is consumed with “white noise.” I find I’m too busy, too tired, too whatever for much quiet time with God. I’ve mastered the “express” devotional time, sandwiched between breakfast and getting dressed for the day.

But when I really take time to pray, I find my priorities change and my schedule clears. God renews my mind and refreshes my spirit: challenges that loomed before me don’t seem so scary anymore. And the more I pray, the more I grow. So why don’t I do it more?

In Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, Jim Cymbala tells of how, as a struggling young minister, he felt God calling him to build a church in a rough area of New York City. One day, a visiting preacher stepped to the microphone. What he said changed the church forever:

“You can tell how popular a church is by who comes on Sunday morning. You can tell how popular the pastor or evangelist is by who comes on Sunday night. But you can tell how popular Jesus is by who comes to the prayer meeting.”

From then on, the Tuesday night prayer meeting became the barometer for the spiritual health of the church. The prayer meeting fed the church’s appetite for God. As the prayer meeting grew, so did the church. As the church grew, so did the choir, led by Pastor Cymbala’s wife Carol. The church was Brooklyn Tabernacle: forty years later, it runs more than 10,000 regular attendees.

As I read Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, I was moved to tears by the stories of miraculous transformations that occurred in the church as it grew – people delivered from alcohol, drugs, and prostitution. But a nagging thought formed in my mind: the church was established in the 1970s, the book written in 1997 … Was the church still building on that same foundation of humility and prayer all these years later?

I’ve been around the church block long enough to develop a healthy dose of skepticism. Had Jim Cymbala resigned his church and hit the lecture circuit once his books hit the bestseller list? Had his wife, Carol, a self-taught pianist, let the success of the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir and its Grammy Awards go to her head? Had the Tuesday night prayer meeting gone by the wayside in favor of other “programs”?

So I googled “Brooklyn Tabernacle.”

Clicking through the main website, I discovered that Jim Cymbala, though no longer a young minister, is still the head of the church; his wife is still the choir director. The prayer meeting survives and in fact there is a “ticker tape” that runs along the bottom of the website listing prayer requests submitted to the church. Reading them reminds me of the scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life” when all the prayers are being raised to heaven, a beautiful jumble of voices in earnest petition.

If a foundation of prayer is good for the church, it’s good for the individual, too. What is a church apart from its members? Regular church attendance is commendable; participation in church activities and outreaches is important, but Jesus won’t have a checklist of the church activities we participated in. His question to us in heaven will be, “Did you do the will of my Father?”

Luke 10 tells the story of two sisters, Mary and Martha. Martha “was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.” Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to him. Martha complained to Jesus that her sister had left her to do all the work by herself. But what did Jesus answer? “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Ouch. Martha was busy doing good things for the Lord, but what Jesus really wanted her to do was to sit and listen to what He had to tell her. The more time we spend in God’s presence, the more we get to know Him, and the more we get to know Him, the more we understand his likes and dislikes. Quiet times are crucial to the Christian life, essential to getting to know the Lord and to discerning His will. So why don’t we do it more?