Thursday, February 28, 2019

7. Growing in Prayer – The Learning Tree – (2) Submission

But God clearly shows and proves His own love for us, by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  --Romans 5:8 (AMP)

We are speaking about submission!  Jesus is our example of true submission – “not My will but Your will” (Luke 22:42).  We share with you the agony Jesus suffered in submitting to the Father for our sins.  Jesus did this to free us from sin so that we might have eternal life with our Heavenly Abba.

 “As He [Jesus] slowly sags down with more weight on the nails in the wrists excruciating pain shoots along the fingers and up the arms to explode in the brain -- the nails in the wrist are putting pressure on the median nerves. As He pushes Himself upward to avoid this stretching torment, He places His full weight on the nail through His feet. Again there is the searing agony of the nail tearing through the nerves between the metatarsal bones of the feet.  At this point, as the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles, knotting them in deep, relentless, throbbing pain. With these cramps comes the inability to push Himself upward. Hanging by his arms, the pectoral muscles are paralyzed and the intercostal muscles are unable to act. Air can be drawn into the lungs, but cannot be exhaled. Jesus fights to raise Himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the blood stream and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically, he is able to push Himself upward to exhale and bring in the life-giving oxygen. It was undoubtedly during these periods that He uttered the seven short sentences recorded”.  “With one last surge of strength, he once again presses His torn feet against the nail, straightens His legs, takes a deeper breath, and utters His seventh and last cry, "Father! Into thy hands I commit my spirit.”[1]

Why do we share these brutal details; because, the relinquishment of self is so important in our walk of faith.  We must experience the Garden of Gethsemane.  Many times in our prayer life, we want God to do our will.  We pray for what we want to happen dictating to God our wishes regarding our surrounding circumstances.  If He would only do as we request, things would be much better.  In our selfish pursuit to have control over the situations in life, we feel certain that what we want would be best and did not Jesus promise all we have to do is ask in His Name (John 14:13).  There are many scriptures in learning God’s Will.  God is sovereign that means he determines everything in His purpose the ultimate outcome of Who God is.    Until we understand scripture, we will never understand the effective prayer.

However, rather than asking in God’s Will, we want to dictate the changes according to our will.  Somewhere along the line of our thinking we did not absorb or take to our heart God’s Word in Isaiah55:8-9, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, . . . . ”.  Somewhere we have not connected to this truth.  Or maybe we didn’t get the truth in I Corinthians 1:25. John 3:30 tells us: 30 He (Jesus) must increase, but I must decrease.

This is submission giving up self to be more like Jesus.  Jesus, (fully human; and fully divine), gave His will to the Father’s Will in the Garden of Gethsemane.  In your Garden of Gethsemane are you willing to submit your will to our Father’s Will?  This is effective prayer.  I must decrease so that Jesus will increase!

[1] Dr. C. Truman Davis, “A Physician's View of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ”.

Monday, February 25, 2019

6. Growing in Prayer – The Learning Tree – (1) Submission

So submit to [the authority of] God. Resist the devil [stand firm against him] and he will flee from you.  –James 4:7 (AMP)

“I, the Lord, search and examine the mind, I test the heart, to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds.  --Jeremiah 17:10

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”  - Tolstoy

As strange as it may seem, most folks give lip service in our churches.  We say the sermon is good and we forget it before we reach home.  We use prayer as a transition in worship service.  We name prayer an invocation or benediction.  We have relegated prayer to a moment’s pause through our day.   Prayer is a battle; prayer is work!  Our Lord prayed until his sweat was like drops of blood (hematohidrosis) (Luke 22:44). Prayer is a pressing part of our Christian faith.  Without prayer we are doomed in the greatest battle ever fought.  Prayer is the battle against the “schemes and the strategies and deceits of the devil” (Ephesians 6:11).  12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood [contending only with physical opponents], but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this [present] darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly (supernatural) places (Ephesians 6:12).  If you do not believe we are in a Battle, just listen to the T.V. News Casts.  PRAYER IS LIFE! 

Who IS the person of prayer?  Before all prayer we should be willing to total submission to our God and King.  When we learn to pray in God’s character, we begin the journey to become more like His Son, Jesus Christ.  We believe as we grow in the character of Jesus, our prayers grow as well.  When we submit, we begin to pray God’s Will rather than our will.  As we discover the love God has for us, we begin to love others in that same love. In submission our thoughts become less selfish and more giving.  We grow in sanctification as we grow more intimately with our Lord and as our branches cling to the Vine (John 15:1-8).

Submission is not easy.  It is probably one of the most difficult acts that we do in our Christian walk in sanctification.  Submitting our personal will to the will of the Father, Abba, our God is a relinquishment of self.  Richard J. Foster in his book, Prayer:  Finding the Heart’s True Home, describes this as the “the School of Gethsemane.” 

When one realizes, we mean really realizes, the love God has for us as individuals, as a person created by God, a life with a purpose, with the power of the Holy Spirit we submit to God’s Will and not our will.  Our prayers become effective and powerful.  God’s love is profound; it is overwhelming.  

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

5. Growing in Prayer – (d)The Learning Tree - Prayer

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  I Thessalonians 5:16-18

As we continue on with our journey in prayer, we found the Scripture of Isaiah 58, especially verses 9-11 a “light bulb moment”, a revelation into the grace of God.  Through the study of this scripture and Dr. Darnell’s sermon, we experienced God.  In that experience we were given a heart of prayer.  We knew HIS joy!  But we also realized we, as a couple, would be spending the rest of our life on this journey we had undertaken to reach the understanding that is Christ’s prayer for us.  Christ’s main concern was that we become one with each other and one in Him as He is one with the Father (John 17:23).  We came to understand oneness is magnified through the power of prayer.  This oneness in our marriage gained through prayer is the golden nugget fired and purified into God’s purpose for a man and a woman joined in holy oneness.

It is for each one to choose their journey, engaging in their own study (not just reading God’s Word but the study of God’s Word).  Individually developing a prayer life that is strong in the Holy Spirit and strong in effectiveness to reach the promises of Jesus.  To gain a relationship, oneness, with God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit Who gives power we could not generate.  "The idea of prayer is not in order to get answers from God; prayer is perfect and complete oneness with God. If we pray because we want answers, we will get huffed with God.[1]

We concluded that as a Christian grows to new Spiritual levels and experiences with God, it is new awakening to God’s truth.  It all begins with seeking to understand prayer. We can have intellectual knowledge, but it is the understanding of the heart that we experience God.  It is in this experience that we grow in the very essence of prayer.  We become a sweet-smelling aroma of Christ Jesus to our Heavenly Father -- The fragrance of love!

Through our studies, we have the understanding, we need the power of the Holy Spirit.  Without the power of the Holy Spirit we can do nothing.  “The Holy Spirit is the Person and the Power by which assistance and ability are given for serving.”[2]
  • Grow in our Faith through the power of God’s Word;
  • Change our atmosphere by spending precious time with our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Grow in Understanding of the heart rather than establish rules for effective prayer;
  • Grow in Confidence;
  • And, probably the very most important, Pray in God’s Will.

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, growing in prayer is a process, there are principles -- spiritual dimensions, a theology and as you grow in prayer one grows in sanctification.  Your atmosphere changes, transformation takes place.  This journey is one step at a time.

[1] Oswald Chambers, “His Utmost for His Highest”
[2] Jack W. Hayford, B.A., B.A., B.Th., D.D., Litt.D.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

4. Growing in Prayer – (c)The Learning Tree - Prayer

32And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (NLT).  John 8:32

We began a Spiritual journey that would take us a life time to travel.  We began to confess how we had fallen short.  We began to see vividly our faults.  In spending more time in the Word and with our Lord, our atmosphere changed; we saw our beginning point; we realized progress in our growth, and we grew in confidence that we would reach the desire of our hearts.  As we grew in knowing (in our inward parts) our behavior began its transformation, and as we experienced God, we began to understand in our hearts a closeness and intimacy we had never experienced before. Not only the closeness and intimacy with our Lord, but with each other.  As one grows in sanctification, understanding reaches the heart.  Confession is a golden nugget to the transforming of self. 

It had become clear we had fallen into a comfortable state where we knew scripture and we knew what we believed.  We prayed . . . to ourselves; not with each other.  We even prayed in church, but we did not voice prayer; we could not pray aloud; we didn’t know how.  We had read God’s Word for years; we had parents and grandparents that mentioned from time to time, “God said . . .”  We were Christians and we had no sin.  Suddenly we understood I John 1:8!!!!

One day as we studied, there was a revelation moment when we read Isaiah 58.  It affected us and we share this with you.  Isaiah’s words penetrated the core of our being (our inward parts). Slowly we began to realize as we prayed together and studied God’s Word one will, physically and spiritually experience God and His truth more deeply than ever before.  In the power of the Holy Spirit, we feel we made a leap in our growth.  Verses 9-11 drew our attention. The knowledge of these Words had reached our heart’s understanding.

Isaiah 58:9-11, Then you shall call, and the Lord will answer; you shall cry, and He will say, ‘Here I am.’ “If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, 10 If you extend your soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul, then your light shall dawn in the darkness, and your darkness shall be as the noonday.  11 The Lord will guide you continually [to extend forever], and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones [core of your system]; You shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail. (NKJ)

We studied this scripture thoroughly because verse 11 held such promise.  This verse captured our heart.  All the years of pain, tragedy, loss of family and difficulties melted away in God’s promise.  Dr. David Darnell did a sermon on Isaiah 58.[1]  After his sermon it all came together, and we understood the revelation that the Holy Spirit had revealed.  This is what it means to us. 

The Greek word in verse 9 for “call” is Qara’ (kah-rah); which means to call out; to address someone; to shout, or speak out, to proclaim. 

When we call out (pray, intercede, petition, cry out) to the Lord, he hears us and He says, ‘Here I am.’  Then He tells us “IF” we remove the binding wrong in our life and the pointing finger in judgment and speaking in an unkind and hurtful manner; if we extend our very life, being; self, personality; inner desires and feelings to those who are hungry and the afflicted, the widows, orphans, hurting; our light shall dawn in darkness; the light will take away the gloom.  Our God will protect our weakest area.  The Lord will guide us continually and satisfy our “inward parts” in drought.  Drought is all the events in life that have harden your heart. 

Effective prayer is the relationship with our God and Father. Through effective prayer, we can experience God, the Son and Holy Spirit.  IF, we do the things God asks us, then we will be like a watered garden and a spring of water whose waters never fail.  Those words were like music to our ears!  Through all of life’s situations we can become a well-watered garden and a spring that does not fail.  We can rest in God’s love, His Grace and know His joy as we relinquish self in prayer.

[1] Dr. David Darnell, Greek and Hebrew Scholar;  Dr. Darnell has a BA degree from Florida Christian College, a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Texas Christian University and a PhD in Biblical Studies from Duke University. He served churches in Canada, Texas, North Carolina and Florida and worked interracially with Afro-Americans in NC and Hispanics and Haitians in Florida. His travels have included trips to Africa, Russia and Israel for various religious expeditions and charities.