“How to be heard by God”

Quiet Time Coaching, Episode 23

It’s very frustrating to be ignored. When it’s a stranger it’s an inconvenience. When it’s your children it’s an annoyance. When it’s your spouse, it’s an emergency!
 
But what about when it’s God?
 
 
I took my usual prayer walk this morning in the park. I saw many dogs and their owners. I didn’t see many owners ignoring their dogs. But I saw lots of dogs ignoring their owners! One person in particular was trying to get their dog’s attention by shouting loudly and blowing on a whistle. I could see the two dogs halfway across the park having a great time, with clearly no intention of returning to their owner anytime soon. On one level it was quite funny. It certainly entertained me! But it wasn’t healthy.
 
What do we do when it doesn’t look like God is listening? We can’t answer every angle on this question today, but we will take a look at one verse in Hebrews which can help us.
 
“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” Hebrews 5.7 (NIV11)
 
What does this passage teach us about how to be heard in prayer? I suggest two things to ponder:
 

1. Peace Plant

The word translated ‘petitions’ is ‘hiketeria’. It is an olive branch held in the hands of someone who wants peace. They are not coming with a demand, but with a request. They are not being passive, but taking initiative.
 
If you want your prayers to be heard by God, come to him on his terms of peace. Approach him, with confidence (Hebrews 4.16), but with humility, understanding that peace is in his hands to give, not in yours to demand.
 

2. Wholehearted Heart

Jesus prayed with fervent cries and tears. A rabbinic saying goes like this:
 
“There are three kinds of prayers, each loftier than the preceding: prayer, crying, and tears. Prayer is made in silence: crying with raised voice; but tears overcome all things (‘there is no door through which tears do not pass’).”
 
It is not necessary to weep every time we pray, of course. But, ask yourself if you are praying like you mean it.

Conclusion

Jesus was not delivered from death. Does this mean he was not heard? Not at all. We know he would have preferred to live (Matt 26.36ff), but his greater preference was for God’s will to be done in his life. The evidence he was heard is that, “An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.” Luke 22:43 (NIV11)
 

Question

What helps you to come to God with the confidence that you will be heard?
 
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of fulfilling quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm

 

 

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“How To Have Fun in the Mist”

Quiet Time Coaching Episode 11: James 4.14 and combining memory verses

Fog of Life

Have you ever got lost in the fog? The fog of war is well-known. But what about the fog of life?
 

Dog in the Mist

Walking across Cassiobury Park this morning on my regular prayer walk I heard a man shouting. Shouting in the fog. I couldn’t see him, but I could hear him. Then, there he was. A shadowy outline in the mist. He pulled back his arm and threw something. It was then I noticed a smaller figure. It was his dog. The dog ran after the ball that had been thrown.
Then the man did something rather unexpected at 7 o’clock in the morning. He started laughing. While the dog was running after the ball in one direction, he took off in the opposite direction. I could see him running and hear him laughing. His dog picked up the ball, turned around and, in confusion, could not see its master. It soon heard him laughing and ran after him. I chuckled to myself as a former dog owner recognising this child-like desire to play games with one’s pet.
 
If you look really closely you might be able to see the man in the photograph.
 

Vanishing Mist

Mist can be an opportunity for fun. But it can also be an opportunity for soberness. As James wrote,
 
“Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14 NIV11)
 
We don’t know about tomorrow. It may never come. As Jesus said,
 
“…do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34 NIV11)
 

Misty Humility

We are a mist. James does not write this because we do not matter, but to prompt us to humility. A healthy Christian mindset carries an equal blend of security and humility. We are unquestionably loved more than we can imagine. We are also undoubtedly unloveable. At least in human terms.
 
How can we carry both the confidence of God’s love and the humility of our mistiness together in a healthy way?
 

Misty Momento

I’d suggest we take a leaf from conquering Roman Generals. When they returned from victorious campaigns the adoring crowds saw them paraded in a chariot. The General heard two ‘voices’. One was the adulation of the crowd cheering their name. The other was that of a slave whispering in the ear, “Memento homo (remember you are (only) a man).”
 
They heard legitimate praise and sobering advice at the same time. We need the same. Combining memory verses makes this possible. Put together two verses of the Bible. Here is one example:
 
Combine,
 
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” (John 15:9 NIV11),
 
with,
 
“clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.”” (1 Peter 5:5 NIV11)
Thus the prayer could be, “Father, thank you for loving me as much as you love Jesus, help me to enjoy this love and to clothe myself with humility toward others, because you oppose the proud but show favour to the humble.”

Over to You

If you were going to combine two verses with these areas of focus, what would they be? Put together several combinations and commit them to memory. Recite them and pray them.
 
We may be in the mist. We may be the mist. But we’re laughing in the mist. Joyful in our mistiness because we know we’re loved. Rejoicing in being loved because we know we’re on our way to him.
 

Question

Have you tried this verse-combo practice? Which verses work for you?
 
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of quality quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm
 

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How to Pray for Kings

How to live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness

Have politicians and public authority figures ever been more derided? Perhaps, but not in my lifetime. We’d agree they need our prayers, but do we, in fact, pray for them? What does the Bible have to say?
 

Pleasing God

Our key passage is 1 Timothy 2.1-4.
 
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1–4 NIV11)
 
Paul wrote this. He had first-hand experience of the injustice of authorities. Yet, his perspective was pure. We could forgive him for a rant, a diatribe, a list of complaints. Take for example his illegal beating and imprisonment in Philippi (Acts 16.37). This might, in our day, have been followed by a twitter storm. But no. He acquires an apology and moves on. What is going on here?
 

Two Reasons to Pray for Authorities

Paul recognises that God wants all people to be saved. The appeal to pray is for “all people”. Paul goes on to mention “kings and all those in authority” for two reasons.
 
1. Firstly, they have more power to stand in the way of the spread of the gospel than other people. They also have the power to facilitate conditions favourable to the Gospel.
2. Second, they are often the last category of people we think to pray for. Unpopular decisions, questionable morality and insensitive pronouncements lead us to dislike them. Perhaps even hate them.
 
Jesus said this, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44 NIV11). If we are to pray for our enemies, then we can’t leave our kings and authorities out. No matter our differences.
 

Suggestions

1. Pray for those who influence your community: local councillors, your MP and the like
2. Pray for those who influence your country: parliamentarians, party leaders, kings, queens, Prime Ministers and Presidents.
3. Pray for those with global influence: world leaders, the secretary-general of the United Nations and leaders of other global organisations.
4. Pray for your enemies: the authorities you complain about
 
If we spent as much time praying for these people as grumbling about their decisions, we would see the Gospel spread more rapidly. Some of them might become followers of Jesus. We could find ourselves in a better spiritual and emotional place.
 

Conclusion

Pray for them by name. Do it personally, and do it in church gatherings. If you are a church leader, I urge you to call on members to pray in this way.
 
I believe I am called to pray for Baroness Dorothy Thornhill (Mayor of Watford), David Gauke (MP for where I live), my Queen, Theresa May, President Trump, Kim Jong-un, António Guterres – and othersPraying for them does not mean I agree with them. It simply means I acknowledge they are sons and daughters of God just as much as me.

Question

Which kings and authorities do you pray for? What motivates you to do so? What points have I missed?
 
Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best when we learn in community.
 
I hope you have a wonderful week of quality quiet times.
 
God bless, Malcolm

“Unexpected Fall”, Matthew 10.29-31

bridgeAutumn is upon us (‘fall’ for my American cousins). The leaves are falling. Change is everywhere. However, not everything progresses as expected. An unusually warm season means we’re mowing more often that usual. Today I trimmed some hedges because they’ve put out new growth at a time when they would normally be conserving their energies in advance of winter. That’s not the only unexpected sight I’ve come across recently.

Yesterday morning’s prayer walk took me over a bridge. What did I see? A leaf. But not in its normal place. It was not on the river bank, or the path, not floating on the water. It was suspended in mid-air. It was as if frozen. A freeze-frame leaf moment. I continued over the bridge and found that from a different angle it was possible to see a spider’s web stretched from a tree on one bank right across to a tree on the opposite side. Kudos to the 8-legged beastie. That was one weird web-tastic wonder!leaf

We don’t always ‘fall’ as we expect. Neither do events. Last night Joe, another member of the Watford church of Christ, & I met on a similar nearby bridge to pray. One of our themes was asking God to give us the humility to be useful to Him as He sees fit, rather than as we would like be used. The early church did not expect to be scattered as they were (Acts 8.1-4). Paul did not expect to be confronted with Jesus (Acts 9.4), nor to be “the apostle to the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13 NIV11). It doesn’t look like Timothy expected to be a church leader (2 Tim 1.7), and Philemon didn’t expect to get Onesimus back – as a brother! (Philem. .16). I could go on.  Have you ‘fallen’ into a place in life you did not expect, desire or like?

We know not what will befall us. Worry could set in. How do we avoid anxiety? Perhaps this passage helps:

“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29–31 NIV11)

If God knows all the sparrows and hairs we can be sure he knows what’s going on. Even the tiniest details of our lives matter to him. And if we are worth more than a bunch of sparrows we’re confident in his consistent care and company as we walk through the unexpected lifts and falls of life.

Whether you’re on the path, the river bank, the water, or suspended in a spider’s web, I hope and pray you’re able to trust God that he’s watching out for you and only has your best interests at heart.

God bless,

Malcolm

Dannatt Destiny Date

14_parable_wedding_jpeg_102430 years ago yesterday two friends of mine walked onto Kew Bridge in London and their lives changed for ever. Tim asked Shevvy if she would consent to be his girlfriend, she said, “Yes” and they are still together today.

As we sat together talking about this it was clear the event was etched in their memories with crystal clarity. They spoke about taking hands and walking across the bridge as if they were actually there. Rather sweet! I remember the wedding and a story about Widor’s toccata – but that’s a story for another day.

I’m speaking on Matthew 22.1-14 this Sunday. It’s often called “The Parable of the Marriage Feast”. In summary, a king invites pre-invited guests to his son’s wedding meal. They ignore him, and, despite further attempts by the king to persuade them, they go off to pursue other interests. Finally they kill the messengers.

The king responds by destroying those who insulted him, then inviting “the bad as well as the good” (Matthew 22:10 NIV11) to the feast. The parable takes an unexpected turn when the king pops in to inspect his guests. One is inappropriately dressed. The sovereign asks, “‘How did you get in here without wedding clothes, friend?’” (Matthew 22:12 NIV11) The man has no response. His fate is the same as the murderers of verse 7. Why? They killed the king’s servants. This fellow wore the wrong clothes. Sounds harsh. But is it?

I’ll be doing my best to unravel this mystery and find the relevance for our times on Sunday. Pray for me – and send me your suggestions if you have any.

Malcolm

What we’re reading: “The Power of One” Part 9, “Peacemakers”

What is the difference between being a peacekeeper and a peacemaker? Matthew 18 needs to be read in the context of Matthew 5 if we are to understand the full implications of Christian unity.

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What we’re reading: “The Power of One” Part 8, “Disagreement”

Jesus knew his followers would disagree with one another. That’s why he gave us the instructions of Matthew 18.15-20. What helps you to resolve a dispute with a fellow-believer?

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Follow me here: @mccx
Website: www.malcolmcox.org