Make My Lifesong a Persevering Prayer

We are instructed to pray constantly (Ephesians 6:18, 1 Thessalonians 5:17), or as another version words it, without ceasing.

Not only are we instructed to do so, we are shown in two different passages of Scripture what that looks like:  The first is the passage that immediately follows the Lord’s instruction at the request of His disciples to be taught how to pray (Luke 11:5-13 ), and  the other is the parable of the unjust judge (Luke 18:1-8).

It should have come as no surprise to me (especially after this month) that this (Ephesians 6) is the passage that speaks of arming ourselves for war.  This passage shows an active fight…one of defending ourselves with the whole armor of God, and using the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God in our offensive attack against evil.  I love that this passage outlines what that armor is, and how it’s used, and am reminded in reading through that there is nothing to protect my backside, which means that there is no retreat in this battle, without risk of injury.

Truly, this is another passage that needs a whole weekend of its own, I urge you to study this out yourself.  It’s rich, and full, and so essential in understanding our need for perseverance in prayer, and in God’s divine provision for everything we need to accomplish it.

For the sake of this post, I will focus on this verse:

Ephesians 6:18 Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

What an incredible epiphany to find in this passage that we are instructed as the body of Christ to persevere in prayer for all the saints.  That’s us…the body of Christ, continuing in prayer for one another…for all the other parts of the body.  This thought dovetails in my mind so beautifully with my post on the communion of the saints, which, incidentally included another verse that talks about persevering…check it out!

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

This passage paints a picture of a race…his followers running with perseverance (or endurance), without excess heavy baggage that bogs us down, and/or sin that easily attaches itself to our flesh.  This verse dovetails with a thought in another of my previous posts about being Son Followers.  Look where our focus is…we are looking to Jesus and following His example of enduring His cross, for what?  For JOY!

Sounds an awful lot like this verse, doesn’t it?

James 1:Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

Steadfastness in this verse is translated “perseverance” in other translations.

As I am putting this retreat together, I have my Pandora “Full and Overflowing” station on.  (This station has been renamed “Make My Life a Prayer“, for the sake of this retreat…another Ebenezer of sorts).   It has some incredible worship tunes, and I find myself getting lost in some of the lyrics.  Right now, Lifesong by Casting Crowns is on, and I find it an appropriate prayer to wrap things up.  It states very well my heart’s desire to serve and please the Lord.  “I want to sign Your name to the end of this day, knowing that my heart was true!”  Let my lifesong sing to you.

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Prayer Journal – Let Thy Kingdom Come

kingdom comeWhen Mary and Joseph “lost” Jesus, and “found” him in the synagogue teaching the teachers, they asked why he would behave this way and cause them anxiety.  If we want to follow and imitate Him,  His answer should give us a clue to our mission.  He answered;  “didn’t you know I had to be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 2)

As His followers, we need to be about our Father’s business.  When we pray “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”, we are recognizing that His will in heaven is our business here on earth, and when we pray for His Kingdom to come, we are lining ourselves up with and agreeing with His will for His Kingdom.  If we are boldly praying for His Kingdom to come, it would behoove us to know what His kingdom looks like.  I think we get a great insight into this by the example Jesus set for us in His prayer  in John 17.

According to this passage, His will is:

  • …that He be glorified in me so that He can bring glory to the Father.
  • …that I know Him.  And as a result of knowing Him, I have eternal life in Him.
  • …that we (His followers) be one, as He and the Father are one…His will is unity in the Spirit.
  • …to have His joy made complete in me.
  • …that I would be sanctified in His word, that is truth.
  • …that the world will know God loves them and will believe Jesus was sent from God by looking at me, and seeing my relationship in Christ.
  • …that God’s love will be in me, and that Jesus Himself will be in me.

thy will

Here I wrote out my favorite answer to the question “What does God want me to do?  What is His will for me?”  I actually learned to sing this Scripture when I was young, and it has never left me.

You can read more of my thoughts on this here.

earth_heaven

I was meditating on this part of the verse as John 17’s words about unity and oneness with the Father, Son, and one another reverberated through my mind, mingled with parts of the Apostle’s creed.  His will (according to John 17) is that we be one…and according to this model of prayer that He gave us, we are to pray that His will be done on earth, as in heaven.  He has one body, and we are all part of one another, here on earth as well as in heaven.

This is a vivid picture of the communion of the saints that is taught and professed in the apostles creed.  Though they have gone from this life on earth to REAL life, eternal life in heaven, a departed saint is still part of the “body of Christ”.  Dying has not disconnected them from Christ’s body of believers, otherwise, where would they go?  Christ only has one body, and it is comprised of those here on earth, as well as those in heaven.

I believe they are part of that cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 12 that is watching and cheering us on in our journey (the race), and they can and do continue to pray to the Father for us.  They haven’t left or been removed from His body, they are still active participants in His will at the feet of “our Father in heaven”, just as we are present in His body, the church, here on earth.  We are still one body, and we are held together, connected in purpose and spirit, by the Son, in whom we find unity one with another, as He prayed we would.

Our Father

Petitions

His Prayer For Us (Part 2)

John 17: 4-19

We’ve established context, and we’ve talked about the first three verses of John 17.  After asking to be glorified for doing the work His father gave Him, He turns his attention to the second main part of this prayer, that is focusing specifically on praying for His disciples.

Here Jesus affirms that these disciples:

  • were given to Him by God the Father from the world
  • have kept God’s word
  • know that everything Jesus told them is from God
  • have received His words
  • know the truth that God sent Jesus, and know that He came from God

He asks on behalf of the disciples that God has given him, and then states that they belong to the Father.  This sets up the next part of this passage where Jesus claims to be one with God the Father, boldly stating “what’s mine is yours, and what’s yours is mine”, then testifies that they (the disciples that God gave to Him from the world) have glorified Him, the Son.

Are you catching all the glorifying going on so far?  The disciples have glorified Jesus, Jesus glorifies the Father, and asks that the Father glorify Him.  That is a lot of glory being passed back and forth.  As He reminds the Father again of the faithful work He has done with them so far, Jesus requests four specific things for His disciples:

  • for their protection
  • for their unity (or oneness)
  • for His joy to be made complete in them
  • for their sanctification

I wonder what would happen if we, the Body of Christ, began to faithfully pray Jesus’ prayer here, each for the other.  I want to add this into my prayer book so that I can remember it.  Can you imagine, if we prayed for protection and unity like we prayed for our health, or our finances?  Or for our brothers and sisters to have God’s joy made complete in them?  How about the big five-syllable word there?  The million dollar word, sanctification.  Nobody even talks like that anymore, maybe we should know what it means before we start putting it on our brothers and sisters in Christ…and ourselves!

Sanctify, according to Merriam Webster has four possible meanings, that all kind of go together, when we are talking about the process in our lives.

  1. to set apart to a sacred purpose or to religious use (consecrate).
  2. to free from sin (purify).
  3. a : to impart or impute sacredness, inviolability, or respect to b : to give moral or social sanction to
  4. to make productive of holiness or piety <observe the day of the sabbath, to sanctify it — Deuteronomy 5:12(Douay Version)

Sanctify them in your truth — I never realized how packed those five words were until tonight.  I’m still letting them sink in.

To put legs on this phrase…Jesus was asking that His followers be set apart for a particular use (in context, I would say for the purpose of bringing Him glory), that we would be free from sin (made pure), and free from being violated, kept sacred and respected.  Because we live in a fallen world, this is a process…every day, every hour, moment by moment, we have to be “sanctified” as we walk out our walk.

If this were a real ladies retreat, I would have placed at your tables a 1/2 pt. Mason jar filled with M&M’s to remind you of your need for His sanctifying power in your life “Moment by Moment”  If you are so inclined, you can make one for yourself, tie a pretty bow or a piece of rafia around the lid, and never see a bag of M&M’s the same way again.  🙂

if I were to imitate the Lord’s prayer for His disciples, it might sound something like this:

Father in heaven, my brothers and sisters are in this world that misunderstands and hates us because of our love and devotion to You; guard and protect us as we strive to be in it without adopting its standards to our lives.  Keep us free from sin and safe from the traps that the enemy sets for us, as we follow in your steps.

Help us to realize that we are here for one another, and bind us together in Your  perfect love, so that we can all be one in Your Spirit, as you are one with the Father.

Lord, we know that this world is not our home, and we are trusting you to make your joy complete in us as we focus on our future hope with you in heaven.  But while we are here, Lord, sanctify us.  Cleanse us and make us pure.  Set us apart, make us sacred, keep us from being violated, help us do the right thing, make us holy and ready to accomplish your perfect will in your truth. Your word is truth, hide it in our hearts, and keep us mindful of your truth and our purpose.

In the precious Name of Jesus, who set the example for us to follow,  Amen.

 

His Prayer For Us – (Part 1)

John chapter 17 is a record of Jesus’ prayer for us.  He has already taught his disciples how they ought to pray, and here he is, walking the walk, showing us what it looks like.  This passage is packed, so to try to do it justice, it will be separated into three separate posts.  We’ll start with the first three verses, and work our way through as we go.

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you,  since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.  And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

I’ve heard it said that a text without context is a pretext.  Because this passage begins with “After Jesus had spoken these words”, I think it’s important to go back to the previous chapter to see what He said that preceded this prayer.  This is for the purpose of developing context…

Well, John chapter 16 also begins with a similar statement “I have said these things to you to keep you from stumbling…”

What things?  Turn back to John 15….in fact…keep going…back to chapter 13.  I see this as the beginning of the context for chapter 17 to make the best sense.  (Really, the whole book of John starting with chapter one would be the best context.   I feel like Inigo Montoya from the Princess Bride “Let me ‘splain…no, takes too long…let me sum up”)

So, to sum up:

John 13 — Jesus, before breaking bread at the Last Supper, washes His disciples’ feet, and begins briefing them on things to come, starting with His betrayal, and ending with the foretelling of Peter’s denial.  In between though, there is this little passage, prefaced by talk of “being glorified”, and “glorifying the Father”.  Here Jesus lovingly prepares his “little children” for his departure, and gives them a “new commandment”; to prove to the world that they are his followers, they are commanded to love one another.

John 14 — after warning of his betrayal, Jesus prepares His disciples for his departure to a place where they couldn’t follow yet, then foretells of Peter’s denial.  Jesus tells the disciples to not let their hearts be troubled, and encourages them with thoughts of heaven, saying that they already know the way to where He’s going.   Thomas and Phillip don’t get it  (bless their hearts…I’m so glad they had the courage to ask…aren’t you?),  and Jesus explains that He is the way, and the truth and the life, and claims to be one with the Father and talks some more about “glorifying the Father”.  He gives more instructions about love (this time it’s not about loving one another, but about how we prove that we love Him…as He shows that He loves the father by obedience to His commands), promises the disciples a coming “Helper”, “Advocate”, and “Teacher”, and gives a little blessing on peace.

John 15 — As they walk and talk, Jesus uses a vine and branches to teach us (the branches) what abiding in Him, (The Vine) looks like.  Here we get a mini-lesson on vine husbandry…removing dead branches, and pruning productive ones so that they will produce more.  We also get more instruction on “glorifying God”, obedience, joy, and what love looks like.  The end of this chapter is a contrast between God and the world.  If we love God, and follow Him, it will cause the world to hate us.  He comforts us with the knowledge that we aren’t greater than our master, and the world hated him first…and He reminds them that the Advocate will be with them, and they are to testify on behalf of the Spirit, as the Spirit testifies of Him.

John 16 — Back to “these things” that Jesus told them to keep them from stumbling:  I believe He was talking about all the things he had told them in the previous chapters…the things that we summed up by looking back to chapters 13-15 (or the whole of the book of John, if you’ve decided to do it right).  His words of encouragement, comfort, and warning will keep them from stumbling when they are thrown out of the synagogue, or when those who truly believe they are following God will kill them.  He reminds them that the reason He is telling them now, is so that they remember His words when these persecutions occur, because He will not be present to remind them.  He gives more instruction on the coming presence of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate and the work He will accomplish, before He bewilders the still clueless disciples with more talk of their coming sorrow and pain at His departure, but offers them peace because even though in the world they will face persecution, He reminds them that He has overcome the world.

So…that is the “summing up” of chapters 13-16 to set the context for Jesus’ prayer for His disciples in  chapter 17.

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father…” — We’ve already developed context to what we are about to learn…now, we see Him look up to heaven, and address His Father…just like He taught the disciples to do when they pray.  (“Say, “our Father, who is in heaven...”)

the hour has come; – what hour?  This one…the one that Jesus, has been warning the disciples, and preparing them for is here.  He knows at this point that the time of his suffering and death is close at hand, and recognizes it in prayer to His Father.  There is something about verbalizing knowledge that brings clarity and acceptance to a situation.  We can “know” something in an abstract way, but when we can verbalize it, it becomes concrete and real.  I see that here.

glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, — Here it is.  The first request in Jesus’ prayer is that He will be glorified, so that He may bring glory to the Father.

since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. — Recognizing that He has authority over all people given to Him, He prays to give eternal life to all who are given to Him by the Father.

And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. —  Jesus defines his term, “eternal life”.  I don’t know if it’s proper exegesis here, but I like to think He wasn’t just talking about life everlasting with Him in heaven, but also for the abundant life that He said in John 10:10 He came to give us while we are here on earth.

I’ve read and studied this passage too many times to remember and count, but until beginning this study, I  had never noticed that Jesus refers to Himself in the third person in the first three verses, and then switches to the first person for the remainder of His prayer.  Maybe it’s just me, but while reading this passage over numerous times, and meditating on it after I shut off the computer and close my eyes, it’s plain as day, and hard for a grammar nerd to easily dismiss.  I keep thinking about the past four chapters where Jesus has talked about sending the Holy Spirit who will testify of Him, and wonder if there is a connection to Jesus’ referral to Himself in the third person.  Could this be our first glimpse of the Holy Spirit doing just that…testifying of Him?  Are we witnessing a Holy Trinity Conference of sorts, where Jesus, who is in God, and God in Him…with the Spirit bearing witness of Him and His work, all praying together?  I don’t know, but I do find it fascinating…and very thought provoking.

Here are links to commentaries on these verses, in case you are interested:

John Rittenbaugh from Forerunner commentary on John 17:3

Ray Stedman on The Longest Prayer

Make My Life a Prayer — Text Reference

John Chapter 17:

After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you,  since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him.  And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do.  So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.  “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word.  Now they know that everything you have given me is from you;  for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours.  10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.

12 While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled.  13 But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.  14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.  15 I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.  16 They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world.17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.  18 As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.  19 And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.

20 “I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word,  21 that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.  22 The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one,  23 I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.  24 Father, I desire that those also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory, which you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.  25 “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

____________

Luke Chapter 11:1-9

He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” He said to them, “When you pray, say:

Father, hallowed be your name.
    Your kingdom come.
    Give us each day our daily bread.
    And forgive us our sins,
        for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
    And do not bring us to the time of trial.”

Perseverance in Prayer

And he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.’ And he answers from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

“So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10 For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11 Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12 Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

________________

Luke 18:1-8

And he told them a parable, to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor regarded man; and there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Vindicate me against my adversary.’ For a while he refused; but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow bothers me, I will vindicate her, or she will wear me out by her continual coming.’” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God vindicate his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will vindicate them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

_________

Matthew chapter 6:5-15

Concerning Prayer

“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.[b]

“When you are praying, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do; for they think that they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

“Pray then in this way:

Our Father in heaven,
    hallowed be your name.
10     Your kingdom come.
    Your will be done,
        on earth as it is in heaven.
11     Give us this day our daily bread.[c]
12     And forgive us our debts,
        as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13     And do not bring us to the time of trial,[d]
        but rescue us from the evil one.[e]

14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; 15 but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

Make My Life a Prayer – Introduction

Hello!  Welcome to “Make My Life a Prayer”, my first ever virtual retreat here at New Things.  Pour yourself a tall glass of your favorite beverage and relax with me for a minute…we’ve got a full weekend ahead.

This brainchild of hosting a virtual retreat came out of my own need and desire to unplug, pull away to a quiet place and meet with God.  Since I had a good block of time on my hands with my youngest away for the month, I thought it would be neat to put together a mini-series of articles, links, music, and prayers for ladies to get lost in for a day or two…or three.  I had no idea where the Lord would lead, or the amazing things He was eager to show me while working on the study portions.

I’ll post what I have learned from my personal study of what Ray Stedman calls “the longest prayer”, our Lord’s prayer for us in John chapter 17, as well as the prayer that is called “The Lord’s Prayer” or the “Our Father”.  I will refer to this prayer as  “the Disciples’ Prayer” since it is an account of our Lord teaching His disciples to pray, and has become a model prayer for us, His disciples now.  There is a separate blog post with both texts for your convenience.

I even have a craft project in the works that you can join me in completing, if you like.  I’m compiling a prayer book, composed of some of the “God whispers” I heard while studying through the selected texts.  You can make one too so you’ll have a place to record prayers to memorize, or verses that are special that you wish to memorize or remember, and a list of requests that you may have purposed to pray for.

Bob Hostetler

I picked up two three packs of mini composition notebooks at Walmart for $0.88 so I could share with my nephew and nieces.  These are a good size to pop in a purse or even a pocket to access when I have extra time on my hands or find myself waiting for the next thing.  Other crafty supplies that I am using for my book are scissors, glue stick, sharpie markers and colored pencils.  You can get as fancy as you want to, your own creative mind is the limit.

Keith Green’s “Make My Life a Prayer” has become my heart cry as I study…and I can hear his lyrics echo when I read through the texts I’ve chosen for this series.  It is my own prayer springing from a desire to bring glory to God as Jesus did, and that He would glorify Himself through me while I strive to walk in faith and obey what He asks me to do.

Will you join me in prayer for the Lord to use this weekend to touch lives and draw people to Himself.  Also, read through the links I’ve provided below to stimulate your mind and heart to better understand prayer. If you find one that is part of a series, don’t stop with the one I’ve linked to, click around and read them all…there is some really good stuff that will (hopefully) get you thinking about what prayer is, what it’s for, who it benefits (and how), and ways that we can spur one another on to becoming effective pray-ers.  Finally, please, if you are following along, introduce yourself in the comments and share your insights on prayer and what God has shown you or is saying to you on your own journey.  If you have access to articles and resources on prayer that you’d like to share, by all means, please do.  We are here for one another, and we all have something to contribute.  I would love to see this weekend be one of sweet Christian fellowship that benefits all of us.

Ok?

  1. Pray
  2. Read
  3. Comment/Share

Good.

Let’s get started!!!

What is Prayer? — USCCB article on prayer.

We Pray Because—Check out Saintly Sages’ excellent posts on the reasons we pray.  You will not be disappointed, it is THAT good.

How Not to Pray—ctk blog has an excellent example of how not to pray.

How to Develop a Prayer Life that Transforms

Praying for our husbands — Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ very well done litany of Scriptures to pray God’s will over our husbands.  Really, this guide is so good, you could use it to pray for anyone, but it is specifically applicable to husbands.

Praying for our children  —  This list compiled by Bob Hostetler is a similar format to Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ list above.  There is a month of Scriptures provided for us to pray God’s Word over our kids.