“How to thrive spiritually”

Quiet time coaching: episode 61

On a recent tour of  Israel, I spent some good time with my old friend Douglas Jacoby.  We discussed the Psalms and he mentioned the book he’s written on them called “Thrive!”. I bought a copy and started reading it straight away. It’s been blessing my spiritual life and I thought I’d bring you a brief description and review of the book for today’s quiet time coaching episode.

Please let me know what you think of Psalms, books on the Psalms, and Douglas’s book if you’ve read it.

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.
Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.
If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org.
Please pass the link on, subscribe, leave a review.
God bless, Malcolm
PS: If you would like some coaching in spiritual disciplines, look me up here.
PPS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

“The connection between the kingdom, peace and joy”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 57

What is the connection between the kingdom of the heavens, peace and joy?

I’m teaching a three-part series on the kingdom for the Thames Valley churches of Christ.  There’s no way I will do it justice, but I do hope to make it more relevant to myself and the congregation.  One of the kingdom verses which has given me the most pause to think and pray is Romans 14:17-18.

Here is Tom Wright’s translation:

“God’s kingdom, you see, isn’t about food and drink, but about justice, peace, and joy in the holy spirit. Anyone who serves the Messiah like this pleases God and deserves respect from other people.” (Romans 14:17–18)

Compare that translation with the NIV:

“For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.” (Romans 14:17–18 NIV11)

Finally, take a look at this translation by Dallas Willard:

“The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking [whether you do it in one way or in another] but is inner rightness and peace and joy sustained by the Holy Spirit. For those serving Christ in this way are well-pleasing to God and approved by men.”

The key phrase here for me, is “inner rightness”.  Far be it from me to criticise the NIV or Tom Wright, and I’m sure the translations are correct, but the Willard version emphasises the personal connection with Jesus. It is this personal connection which ensures our ability to experience the peace and joy of the Messiah.  It is he who gives us peace (John 14:27) and joy (John 15:11).  Why are we confident of this personal connection? Because Jesus promised, “I will be with you” Matthew 28:20.  Since we have the spirit of Christ, we can enjoy the fruits of that spirit (Rom 8.9; Gal 5.22).

As Willard says, “..the kingdom of the heavens, from the practical point of view in which we all must live, is simply our experience of Jesus’s continual interaction with us in history and throughout the days, hours, and moments of our earthly existence.” (The Divine Conspiracy)

Would you like more joy and peace?  Practice becoming more aware of the presence of Jesus. That is why we pray, and engage with spiritual disciplines. Not to make us “better”, but to make us more aware and thus more connected with the source of peace and joy. And the benefit? Why do we need to question the benefits of more peace and joy! But, we should also be aware that the fuller our experience of the peace and joy of the spirit, the more it will set us apart in this world as people who have something others need. Those with spiritual hunger will sit up and take notice.

The kingdom has many facets. But perhaps, practically, the most fundamental is the opportunity to avail ourselves of a supernatural peace and joy for which we were always designed.

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.

Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.

If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website.

Please pass the link on, subscribe, leave a review.

God bless, Malcolm

PS: If you would like some coaching in spiritual disciplines, look me up here.
PPS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool“, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

“Return to be refreshed”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 56

If you are watching the video you will notice that I am not my usual place to record today’s quiet time coaching episode. That’s because I felt called, drawn even, to go back to a place where I prayed regularly five years ago. I have just finished my prayer time there and wanted to share the experience with you.

Where did I go? I went to a viewpoint overlooking the Harrow area of north-west London. You can see all of North West and West London from this place. It’s a wonderful view. I used to come up here regularly to pray. Sometimes early in the morning, sometimes late at night when the lights were shining and the stars were twinkling.

Behind the car park for the viewpoint are some woods. The area is called Grimsdyke. I came here to pray 3, 4 or five times a week between 2000 and 2013. It became the most important prayer place for me during that time. I came up here with my dog in the sunshine, the rain, snow and whatever else the weather threw at us and we walked, and I prayed.

It’s five years since I was last here. It was so helpful today to reflect on all the lessons God has taught me the last five years. To realise that his disciplining hand has always been for my good. To celebrate his grace to me. My soul is refreshed.

Is there somewhere significant to you, that you could go back to and pray? Somewhere you haven’t been for a while. Perhaps a place where you used to worship, the location of your baptism into Christ, a regular former prayer spot or something similar?

I’m so glad I came here today. I am refreshed and ready for my Monday (I’m recording this on a Monday) and my week.

Have you returned to be refreshed? I would love to know your experiences.

Please leave a comment wherever you read or see or hear these recordings. Please leave it publicly because we learn best when the learn in community.

If you know someone who might benefit from these thoughts, please pass the link on to them.

If you’re listening to the podcast, please leave us a review. If you’re watching the video, please hit the like button and the subscribe button and then you will be notified when new recordings go online.

I pray that between now and the next time we see each other you will find great refreshment from being reminded what God has done in the last year, or five or ten of your life.

God bless, Malcolm

PS: If you would like some coaching in spiritual disciplines, look me up here.

PPS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

“An arrow prayer for every day of the week”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 55

We lead busy lives. Sometimes we forget God’s presence, and we do not have opportunity for lengthy prayer. What to do?

Arrow prayers, pp319-323:
  • These can be a simple word, or a short phrase that is repeated throughout the day bringing remembrance to us that God is with us in all circumstances.
  • “Speak them inwardly and they will speak back to you all through the day’s changing circumstances. Because the words are so few and so simple, they help us to soar beyond language into the mystery of silence.
  • “One single grateful thought, raised to heaven, is a perfect prayer.“ Lessing, Minna Von Barnhelm, ii, 7.
  • “The simpler the prayer style, the easier it will be to bring the spirit of prayer into daily life.”
“And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words.” (Matthew 6:7 NIV11)
I’ve come up with a different arrow prayer for each day of the week.
  • Monday: “Marvellous are your deeds, Lord” (Revelation 15:3 NIV11)
  • Tuesday: “I choose you, Lord”
  • Wednesday: “I worship you, Lord”
  • Thursday: “Thank you, Lord”
  • Friday: “Feed me, Lord”
  • Saturday: “Save me, Lord”
  • Sunday: “Sustain me, Lord”
Why not make up your own?
Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.
Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.
If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org.
Please pass the link on, subscribe, leave a review.
God bless, Malcolm
PS: If you would like some coaching in spiritual disciplines, look me up here
PPS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

“A meditation on the Lord’s prayer” by Balthasar Hubmaier

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 54

Balthasar Hubmaier was an Anabaptist leader who wrote this short meditation in 1526. Soon afterwards he was arrested, tortured and executed for his faith.

Our Father. Gracious Father, I am not worthy to be called a child of yours or that I should be able to call you my Father. I have not always done your will. I have often done the will of the Father of Lies. Forgive me, merciful Father, and make me a child of yours in the faith.

Who Art In Heaven. Father of goodness, look upon us, we who live in this miserable state of woe. We know that children cannot find a better condition than to be with their loving father, who feeds them, gives them drink, clothes them, protects them and shields them from all needs. Gracious Father, take us, your miserable children, to be with you in heaven.

Holy Is Your Name. Merciful Father, we know that we are guilty of continually dishonoring your name with our words and actions. The suffering of Christ, which for us is medicament for eternal life, we make into an eternal reproach by our cursing and rebuking. Forgive us, Father, and give us grace so that your name will never come from our mouths unprofitably. Help us to cease all blasphemy and swearing so that your holy name will eternally be glorified, enhanced and praised.

Your Kingdom Come. Gracious Father, we know that we are captives to sin, the devil, hell and eternal death. But Father, we cry out and call to you as our loving Father to come quickly with your kingdom of grace, peace, joy and eternal salvation. Come to our aid, gracious Father, for without you we are totally miserable, afflicted and lost.

Your Will Be Done On Earth As In Heaven. Good Father, we confess publicly that your fatherly will does not suit us earthly people. Our will is completely and totally hostile to your divine will. We ask you to send your Holy Spirit to work in us authentic faith, steadfast hope and ardent love, so that our will is conformed to your divine will in all things.

Give Us Today Our Daily Bread. Compassionate Father, we live not by bread alone, but by every word that comes from your holy mouth. Therefore, we humbly pray that you will feed us with the bread of your holy word. This is the bread of heaven, and whoever eats it will be eternally filled. Make it a living presence in our souls. Make it grow and bring forth fruits of eternal life. Give us diligent Christian workers who will spread this bread among us in pure, clear and untarnished manner so that your Fatherly will, which is known only from your word, will be fulfilled.

Forgive Us Our Debts As We Forgive Our Debtors. Kind Father, we know that we are guilty of having sinned in words, deeds and evil thoughts. We do not even know the number, portion or extent of our sins. Father, forgive us and give us power to better our way of living, even as we forgive those who have caused our suffering. Father, forgive them too, for they do not know what they are doing. Enlighten all those who misunderstand your holy word, who abuse and persecute us, so that they might come to the true way that leads to eternal life.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation. Heavenly Father! Look on the fear, barrenness, misery, persecution and hardship which we must endure here on earth, and ponder also our human weakness. For this reason, sweet Father, we ask of you, through your Fatherly love, that you do not forsake us in our anguish and suffering, that we not be defeated nor fall away from your holy word. Do not allow us to be tempted beyond that which we can endure. We are weak and frail, while our enemies are strong, powerful and heartless. You know these things, merciful Father.

Deliver Us From Evil. Deliver us from evil, from sin, from the devil, from our own lust, which is our greatest enemy. Deliver us from all that keeps us far from you. Moreover, give us all that brings us closer to you. For dominion, power and glory are yours forever in eternity.

Eternal Father, as we have prayed to you here, bring it to fulfilment according to your Fatherly good will. These things we pray through your mercy and through your gracious promises which you have given to us consistently through Moses, the prophets and the apostles. But we pray this especially, pleading with you, through your most beloved son, our Lord Jesus Christ. He has surely promised us, and proved it through his bitter death, that whatever we pray for in your name you will give us. Father, we place our bodies, lives, honour, possessions, soul and spirit into your hands. All that we have received from you we offer back to you, for you give and you take away. Praise be to your name. Amen and amen.

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.
Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.
If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org.
Please pass the link on, subscribe, leave a review.

God bless, Malcolm

PS: If you would like some coaching in spiritual disciplines, look me up here.
PPS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

“Gethsemane – Keep Watch with Jesus”: Guest blog post by Dr Steve Kinnard

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 53

I’m very privileged to bring you a post on prayer by my friend Dr Steve Kinnard. We’ve known each other a few decades now, and I have benefitted significantly from his lessons, conversations and reading his books.

This blog post originally appeared on Steve’s site, November 7, 2016.

The Garden of Gethsemane is a special place for my family. When we lived in Jerusalem, we often had family devotionals in Gethsemane. Our daughter Chelsea adopted an olive tree that she would climb.  Chelsea would lay upon one of its branches and pray. We called that olive tree–The Chelsea Tree.  We visited the tree on our recent trip to Gethsemane. It is still a strong, healthy tree. And our daughter Chelsea has grown into an amazing woman of God. We are blessed.

Let’s meditate on the story of Jesus in Gethsemane.

Matthew 26:36-ff.

 Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

 He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.”

 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing.

 Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”

Luke 22:39-46

 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.

 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

Jesus asked his disciples to perform one task–Keep watch with him. Stay awake with Him.

Stated in the negative this is–don’t fall asleep on Jesus.

Stay awake. Stay awake and pray. Stay awake and pray so that you don’t fall into temptation. Stay awake and pray so that you don’t fall into temptation because the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

One task. KEEP watch. Stay awake.

I don’t want to be too hard on the disciples. Luke, who was not one of the original disciples, informs us that the disciples were exhausted with sorrow. I get that. When I’m sad, full of sorrow, I want to sleep. Sometimes when I see a really depressing movie, I say, “I need a nap after that.” I sleep hoping that while I’m sleeping the situation will change, and I won’t have to be sad anymore. But so far, sleep has never caused the situation to go away. So I don’t want to be too hard on the disciples because I understand what it means to be exhausted with sorrow. And they had had a long, difficult week with Jesus.

At the same time, I also realize that if a really good friend asked me to stay awake while he prayed, I’d find a way to stay awake. Especially if there were three of us who were fighting to stay awake. We could help each other stay awake.

Let’s say my good friend Troy Baker asked me to pray with him. I’d be honored to pray with Troy. Troy says, “Steve, just keep watch for me while I pray.” That’s risky leaving me alone to keep watch. But then Troy invites another friend Mike Santorio to join me. Ain’t no way Mike Santorio is going to allow me to fall asleep. He would have me doing push ups if I began to look sleepy. Then Troy invites another friend Lance Sarincino to join us. Lance is an amazing guy. But, at times, Lance can be a little scary. And I’m pretty sure Lance likes it that way. So I wouldn’t fall asleep because Lance might tie me up and dangle me from a cliff. I’m sure pictures of me dangling from that cliff would be posted on Facebook the next day. My point it this–it only takes one person who is invested to make sure the others stay awake. Be that person.

I think Peter, James, and John could have kept each other awake. If one of the three had been intentional about keeping watch, then he could have kept the others awake.

But that’s not where there minds were.

They failed to Keep Watch. They failed to stay awake with Jesus.

If you are going to keep watch with Jesus, you have to be intentional about it. Staying awake with Jesus doesn’t happen by accident.

And here’s the thing:

If we aren’t careful, we can easily sleepwalk through our spiritual lives. We get up in the morning, have our routine quiet time, rush off to work or to school, rush back home after work, have a quick dinner with the family, perhaps run out to a regular midweek Bible study, come back home, go to bed, and wake up the next day for the same routine. We aren’t intentional about growing to be more and more like Jesus, so we don’t grow spiritually. We maintain the status quo, but we don’t grow.

We might think about growing with Jesus, but we don’t do the things that Jesus did to be the person he was. Like getting up early, while it was still dark, to connect with the Father in prayer. Or, memorize large portions of scriptures so that when we are tempted we have scriptures on our hearts to use against Satan. Or, develop the compassion of Jesus for the sick, the needy, and the hurting. Or, be willing to go person to person and village to village to preach the good news of God’s kingdom to those who are lost. Or, pray the Gethsemane prayer, “Not my will, but your will be done.”

So we must decide to Keep Watch with Jesus. We must decide to stay awake and not to sleep walk.

The older I get, all I want to know about, learn about, focus on, think about, meditate on is Jesus.

Because Jesus is THE difference maker in life. He gives me energy. He gives me purpose.

When I’m selfish, I think about the selflessness of Jesus.

When I’m lazy about pursuing God, I think about how Jesus would get up early to pray with God or stay up the whole night in prayer.

When I’m struggling with love for neighbor, I see the way Jesus touched lepers and spoke with outsiders like the Samaritan woman and cared for people with a selfless, agape love.

I know one of the most special aspects about being in the Holy Land is knowing that you are walking where Jesus walked. On our tours, we love to focus on the spots where we know Jesus walked there. You don’t see signs in Aramaic that read “Jesus slept here,” but you do have places where you know Jesus was.

Like the Sea of Galilee.

Or, Caesarea Philippi.

Capernaum

Nazareth

Bethesda

The Garden of Gathsemane.

The steps of the southern Temple Mount.

It’s exciting to be in those places. I love those spots.

But I think the question we each need to ask is, “Am I going to walk in the steps of Jesus every day of my life wherever I might be in life?” Because the steps of Jesus lead to the needy, the lonely, the hurting, and the lost. The steps of Jesus lead to great relationships within his kingdom–helping, helpful, encouraging relationships. The steps of Jesus lead to keeping the unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace. The steps of Jesus lead to building up the kingdom.

So keep watch with Jesus. Keep watch by obeying his commands. Keep watch by getting into his word and letting the word change your heart. Keep watch and pray. Pray that you will not give into temptation for the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

Be intentional. Have great times in the word. Have inspiring pray times. Decide to be with positive people who build you up and don’t drag you down. Flee temptation. James says that if you flee temptation, the devil will run from you. When is the last time you made the devil run?

Will you stay awake with Jesus? Will you stay awake and pray? Will you stay awake and pray so that you will not to fall into temptation?

Keep Watch With Jesus

Jesus on the Sea of Galilee

Jesus in Caperaum

Jesus in Bethsaida

Jesus in Chorazim

Jesus in Caesarea Philippi

Jesus in Nazareth

Jesus on the Temple Mount

Jesus on the Mount of Olives

Jesus in Gethsemane asking his disciple

Keep watch, stay awake, pray

Pray that you will not fall into temptation

The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak

Jesus on a cross at Golotha

Arms outstretched

Breathing his last breath

Jesus in a tomb

But not for very long

Jesus rose

Up from the grave-Jesus rose

Keep watch

Stay awake

Pray

Pray that you will not fall into temptation

Keep watch with Jesus.

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.
Do you have a question about teaching the Bible? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send me your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: malcolm@malcolmcox.org.
If you’d like a copy of my free eBook on spiritual disciplines, “How God grows His people”, sign up at my website: http://www.malcolmcox.org.
Please pass the link on, subscribe, leave a review.
God bless, Malcolm
PS: If you would like some coaching in spiritual disciplines, look me up here
PPS: You might also be interested in my book: “An elephant’s swimming pool”, a devotional look at the Gospel of John

Guest blog post by Rolan Monje: “Prayers in the Bible”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 51

I’m very happy to bring you a guest blog post by my friend, Rolan Monje. He has the role of a Teacher in our sister congregation in Manila.

Take your time to read it carefully and use it in the way it’s intended – not just for interest, but to stimulate our prayer lives.

Let me know what stands out from this article, and leave a comment as to how it helped you.

God bless, Malcolm

 

Prayers in the Bible

A few months ago, I felt that God was calling me to a deeper prayer life. I decided to meditate on the prayers of the prophets. Also, I found it helpful to study out the prayers of Christ. As I dug deeper, I ended up surveying the whole Bible on the subject of prayer. One thing is certain: the Bible has more than enough references to prayer-commands, records, examples, and allusions to show that God desires to have a prayerful people. It was both a sobering and inspiring study for me.

In the following sections, you will find listed the various prayers mentioned in the different parts of the Bible. I hope that this summary will encourage you to also study out prayer in the Bible. This will surely enrich your walk with God. Here are some helpful study questions when you look at prayers in the Bible:

1. What caused the person to pray?

2. What was the condition of the person’s heart when he/she prayed?

3. Why was the prayer answered (or not answered)?

4. What can I learn here about God’s character?

5. Is there anything I can change in my prayer life based on this example?

A. Prayers in the Pentateuch

The books from Genesis to Deuteronomy mention prayers of many different kinds. Although collectively the first five books comprise what is called “The Law”, it is not just a cold, legal document. Principles and patterns of prayer (non-legal in nature) stand out. Most of the prayers are requests and pleas, but there are also praises and complaints:

1. Cain’s prayer is the first one mentioned in Scripture. In Ge 4:13-15, he cried out to God as he bore the consequence of his sin.

2. Abraham has several times of prayer recorded in his storyline. He prayed for a son in Ge 15:1-9), and for different people as well: for Ishmael in Ge 17:20 and for Abimelech in Ge 20:17. Another time he prayed for the city of Sodom (Ge 18:23-33).

3. Hagar is recorded as praying for deliverance (Ge 16:7-13).

4. Lot bargained with God regarding his escape plan in Ge 19:20.

5. Abraham’s servant (possibly Eliezer) sought specific guidance from God in Ge 24:12-52. This is a great example of specific, pointed prayer.

6. Rebekah cried out to God concerning her pains in pregnancy (Ge 25:22-23).

7. Jacob, finally facing up to his faults, pleaded for deliverance from Esau (Ge 32:9-32; 33:1-17).

8. Moses had a whole lot of prayers lifted up to God. In Exodus, Moses asked for help at the Red Sea (Ex 14:15-16), at the waters of Marah (Ex 15:25), at Horeb (Ex 17:4-6), and in the battle versus the Amalekites (Ex 17:8-14). In Numbers 11, he went to God concerning the grumbling of the Israelites for flesh (Nu 11:11-35) and in the chapter following in behalf of Miriam’s leprosy (Nu 12:13-15).

Questions for reflection:

1. How does our character affect our prayer life?

2. How did God train Israel to be prayerful? Note: Aside from these examples, the Israelites are also mentioned as having “cried unto the Lord” (Nu 20:16; De 26:7). This means that they had prayed although the actual words of their prayer were never recorded. In each case, Israel is presented as helpless without God, and it is He who is ultimately the Saviour of the nation. Without divine intervention, sure ruin would have come to Israel.

Suggested topics for study: How Moses spoke with God, Jacob’s “habit” of altar-building; Abraham’s call and prayer life, How God trained Israel to pray

B. Prayers in the History Books

More detailed prayers are given in the history books. Interwoven within the annals of ancient Israel are the lucid narratives of men who sought a deep relationship God. More pronouncedly than the Pentateuch, the History books portray the connection between a man’s leadership and his prayer life. Also, with David as a chief example, the History books give greater detail into how God’s people made various requests to God. It is clear that those who rely on God receive favour. Some of their prayers are listed below:

1. Joshua prayed a unique, radical prayer for the sun to stand still (Jos 10:12-14). This chapter displays God’s power over creation in behalf of man.

2. Gideon, before his debut as Israel’s leader, asked for a sign of dew (Jdg 6:36-40). The chapter actually records more appeals for proof of God’s approval. Gideon’s confidence in God’s promises needed boosting.

3. Manoah asked for guidance about his child, saying “teach us how to bring up the boy”. This prayer about raising Samson was heard by God (Jdg 13:8-9).

4. Samson begged for strength for one last time, gaining retribution for his demise (Jdg 16:28-30).

5. Hannah asked for a child after many years of being barren (1Sa 1:10-17, 19-20).

6. David has a well-recorded prayer life. His prayers include inquiring whether Keilah would be delivered into his hands (1Sa 23:10-12), inquiring about Ziklag (1Sa 30:8), asking whether he should enter Judah after Saul’s death (2Sa 2:1), and asking whether he should go to war against the Philistines (2Sa 5:19-25). Some of David’s other prayers are found in the Psalms (e.g. Ps 118:5; 138:3).

7. Solomon prayed for wisdom at the start of his reign (1Ki 3:1-13). He also prayed at the dedication of the temple (1Ki 8:23-53; 2Ch 6:14-42).

8. Hezekiah prayed to God for a chance to serve a longer time (2Ki 20:2+). Hezekiah reminded God of his faithfulness, both in his personal conduct and in his righteous deeds, and of his wholehearted devotion to God. Earlier he had prayed for deliverance from Sennacherib (2Ki 19:14-20; 2Ch 32:20-23).

9. Elijah’s life was built on prayer. Only by asking God was the widow’s son raised (1Ki 17:22). At the famous challenge of Mt. Carmel, God answered his plea for fire on his sacrifice(1Ki 18:36-38). Elijah’s prayers also affected the rain (1Ki 17:1; 18:1, 42-45; Jas 5:17).

10. Elisha is recorded as praying to God to open the eyes of his servant. He later leads the Syrian army to submission (2Ki 6:1, 17-20).

11. Jabez implored for prosperity in 1Ch 4:10.

12. Abijah asked for victory over Jeroboam (2Ch 13:14-18).

13. Asa asked for victory over Zerah (2Ch 14:11-15).

14. Jehoshaphat asked for victory over the Canaanites (2Ch 18:31; 20:6-7)

15. Jehoahaz asked for victory over Hazael (2Ki 13:4)

16. Manasseh asked for deliverance from the king of Babylon (2Ch 33:13, 19)

17. Ezra prayed to God upon hearing of intermarriage among the people (Ezr 9:5-6; 10:1)

18. Nehemiah opened his account with prayer (Ne 1:4-11). The book has several other prayers and references to prayer (e.g. 2:4).

Aside from the individuals mentioned above, several groups are mentioned as lifting up prayers to God. The Reubenites pleaded for deliverance from the Hagrites (1Ch 5:20). The priests also offered prayer in behalf of the people in 2 Chr 30:27. Although not as specific about prayer, the people of Judah are mentioned to have sought God “with their whole desire” (2Ch 15:15). Upon returning from the Captivity, the Jews also offered up prayers to God while fasting (Ezr 8:21, 23).

Suggested topics for study: Joshua’s Radical Prayer, Nehemiah’s prayer life, The Heart of David in prayer, Ezra’s prayer in Ezra 10, Prayer and Faithfulness

C. Prayers in the Prophets & Psalms

The prophets acted as God’s spokesmen for many centuries. For sure it was vital for these men to have a dynamic walk with the Lord. The instances of prayer mentioned in the prophets–books from Isaiah to Malachi–are few but significant. Of course, it would be impossible for these men to remain in their vocation without powerful prayer. I am sure that many prayers of the prophets were left unrecorded. In Isaiah 6 for example, the prophet has a discourse with God in a vision. Elsewhere in the book he does not actually pray to God, but prayer his is mentioned in 2 Ki 20:11. Here are some of the instances of prayer mentioned in the prophets:

1. Jeremiah prayed to God, seeking reassurance for his “risky” purchase of land (Jer 32:16-25). This section records an intense conversation between God and the prophet.

2. Ezekiel bargained for another way to bake bread (Eze 4:12-15). This had a spiritual significance in his life as a prophet.

3. Daniel was known for his consistent prayer life (Da 6:10-11). He prayed for divine revelation and interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream (Da 2:19-23) and also interceded for the people (Da 9:20-23).

4. Jonah found himself praying from inside a big fish (Jnh 2:1+).

5. Habakkuk questioned God as he complained and lamented (Hab 1:2+).

 

Questions for thought:

1. What was the role of prayer in a prophet’s life?

2. What could have been some of the prophets’ difficulties in prayer?

3. What can I learn from the prayers of the prophets?

All the Psalms could be read as “lifting up hearts before God.” In this way, the Psalms present a valuable treasure trove of prayer. The Psalms represent the whole range of human emotion and teach us how to express ourselves to God at different times. That is why the Psalms are so “relatable” to us. By reading through the Psalms, meditating on them, and reciting them aloud, we learn to communicate with God the way his ancient peoples did.

D. Prayers of the New Testament

The New Testament chronicles a lesser number of prayers than the Old. Because of the letters however, we are given richer insight into how the apostles prayed: their content and manner. Here are some prayers recorded in the NT, with the prayers of Christ reserved for later:

1. Zechariah prayed for a son (Lk 1:13).

2. Anna served God with fasting and prayer (Lk 2:37).

3. Paul asked to be delivered from death (2Co 1:9-11).

4. Stephen prayed as he neared death (Ac 7:59-60).

5. Paul and Silas were praying in prison, being heard by the other inmates (Ac 16:25).

6. Peter prayed for the dead Tabitha (Ac 9:40). Another time he is went up on the roof to pray (Ac 10:9).

7. Cornelius’ piety was shown by his prayers (Ac 10:30).

In Acts, the disciples are seen praying for Peter’s protection (Ac 12:5-17). This shows that there was an atmosphere of prayer in the church (check out the role of prayer in Acts 1, 6, and 13). After the gospels and Acts, the Epistles hold a vast number of prayers penned by the authors. These give us insight into how the Apostles prayed. See for example Paul’s prayers: for Ephesians (Eph 1:15-19; 3:14-19), for Philippians (Php 1:3-5, 9), for Colossians (Col 1:3, 9), for Thessalonians (1Th 1:2; 3:10, 12-13; 5:23; 2Th 1:11-12; 2:16-17; 3:5, 16), for Onesiphorus (2Ti 1:16, 18), for Philemon (Phm 4).


The prayers of Christ deserve special attention. Not only are they frequent and varied, but they uniquely open a window into the very heart of God. The prayers of Jesus are moving and gripping. They teach us how to approach God humbly yet forcefully.

Here are some passages describing the prayer life of our Lord:

1. Jesus began his day early with prayer (Mk 1:35). This reflects discipline and dependence.

2. Jesus sought to have private times with God, especially in the mountains (Mt 14:23; Mk 1:35; 6:46; Lk 5:16; 6:12; 9:18, 28-29).

3. Jesus’ custom was giving thanksgiving before eating (Mt 14:19; 15:36; 26:26-27; Mk 6:41; 8:6; 1Co 11:24).

4. Jesus depended on God in times of distress (Jn 12:27; Heb 5:7). He showed this at Gethsemane (Mt 26:36-44; Mk 14:32-35; Lk 22:41-44; Heb 5:7) and on the cross (Mt 27:46; Lk 23:34, 46).

5. Jesus blessed children (Mt 19:13, 15; Mk 10:16).

6. Jesus prayed for his disciples, just like he told Peter (Lk 22:31-32). He also prayed for all believers (Jn 17:1-26). This reflects his big heart for people.

7. Jesus had specific requests to God. He presented his desires at the grave of Lazarus (Jn 11:41-42). He also prayed for the Comforter, the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:16).

A study of Jesus’ prayer life shows how mortal man can have a dynamic relationship with God. Jesus’ prayers, whether on a mountain (Mt 14:23; Mk 6:46; Lk 6:12; 9:28) or in the wilderness (Lk 5:16), give us great insight into true personal worship with God. His example of prayer was one-of-a kind. It is evident from the gospels that Jesus believed in prayer, told men to pray, and prayed a lot himself. Jesus’ teachings matched his own superlative example; I would say he was the most “prayed up” man ever. His prayers were frequent, sincere and personal. Jesus understood that the Father sought worshippers and that our worship satisfies His loving heart. That is why his prayers pleased God; they met God’s desire. This was the new spiritual worship that Jesus described to the Samaritan woman. Because God is Spirit, we must worship in spirit. As God is, so His worshippers. Anyone who prays more like Christ is on a good spiritual track.


Closing Thoughts

The Bible has so much about prayer that a whole lifetime would not be enough to exhaust the learning and the experience. Praise God that he has given us every day of our lives to enjoy our relationship with him. I pray that this summary of prayers in the Bible will inspire you to grow in your own prayer life. A close walk with God is a priceless gift.

A growing prayer life is worth the time and effort. Even the chance to approach God is something we don’t deserve. To have a “good talk” with the Lord is better than anything in the world. There is nothing as fulfilling, as enjoyable, or as powerful.

Rolan D. Monje


Please leave a comment here so that we can all learn from one another. We learn best, when we learn in community.

Would you like some coaching in the spiritual disciplines? You can find me by clicking the button below.

I hope you have a wonderful week of fulfilling quiet times.

God bless, Malcolm

Get coached on Coach.me

“How to pray for people”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 50

“With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.” (2 Thessalonians 1:11 NIV11)

1. A prompt, not a to do list

  • Review every Saturday
  • Put in diary, so don’t forget
  • Pray for people at least once a week
  • Helps me keep my promises to pray for people

2. Pause before each person

3. Picture, bring them to mind, picture them in your imagination

Please leave a comment, pass the link on and subscribe.

What question would you like to see answered?

God bless, Malcolm

“For God Alone”, Class 3.

Dealing with boredom and bewilderment

“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall never be shaken.” (Psalms 62:1–2 NRSV)

Sometimes the most basic things in the Christian life suffer. Either because we forget their significance, or we lose inspiration. This class series is designed to refresh our desire for a daily focused time with God – something that is often called a “quiet time”.

The FGAClass3 Handout and FGA3 Slides for the third class are attached.

If you have any questions about quiet times in general or about the class material in particular, please drop me a line.

I hope you find this a blessing.

God bless, Malcolm

Please add your comments on this week’s topic. We learn best when we learn in community.

Do you have a question about the Bible or the Christian faith? Is it theological, technical, practical? Send us your questions or suggestions. Here’s the email: tvcochrist@gmail.com.

Thanks again for watching. Have a super day.

“Making the most of resources”

Quiet Time Coaching: Episode 49

Something different today – an article (click here for the pdf: Resources) – on making the most of resources in helping us to have enriching quiet times. I hope you enjoy it as much as me.

MAKING THE MOST OUT OF RESOURCES

Open my eyes, so that I may behold
wondrous things out of your law (Psalm 119:18)….

BIG IDEA: Prayer and Bible reading is an act of being immersed in a story – try not to think of the Bible as a compendium of ‘truths’ or as a guidebook of rules for life, but rather as the great story of God and man:

All across the spectrum today experts are also saying we need to read the Bible as Story. Robert Webber, a wonderfully influential and now deceased Wheaton professor, offers us an invitation: “So I invite you to read the Bible,” he said, “not for bits and pieces of dry information [pieces in a puzzle], but as the story of God’s embrace of the world told in poetic images and types.” I add another voice, namely, the excellent Old Testament scholar John Goldingay: “The biblical gospel is not a collection of timeless statements such as God is love. It is a narrative about things God has done.”2 For a third voice, consider a Jewish scholar, Abraham Joshua Heschel: “The God of the philosopher is a concept derived from abstract ideas; the God of the prophets is derived from acts and events. The root of Jewish faith is, therefore, not a comprehension of abstract principles but an inner attachment to those events.” (Scott McKnight, The Blue Parakeet: Rethinking How You Read the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008), 59.)

I see this in two stages – exegetical and emotional – where these two things meet, I personally have the most naturally intuitive God-experience.

EXEGETICAL:

To break down a passage, think in terms of the following:

  • Text – the passage you are studying
  • Co-text – the verbiage around (before and after) the passage you are studying
  • Context – what the chapter/book is about (here’s where commentaries come in)
  • Intertext – other texts which embody the same ideas
  • Keywords – repeated phrases or ideas in the target text
  • Conjunctive words/phrases – ‘therefore’, ‘in order that’, ‘because’ – all those words and phrases that tell you direct the movement of a discourse.

Example:

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” 

Text: John 1:43-51

Co-text: John 1:35-42 – This passage gives us both a distinctive picture of Jesus and a description of the first disciples’ initial experiences of Jesus, providing further reflections on the nature of discipleship. This material is divided in two parts. In the first (vv. 35–42) the disciples take the initiative to follow Jesus, and in the second (vv. 43–51) Jesus takes the initiative. We learn that the apostles were former students of John the Baptist – this in itself ought to be a whole other study session! He points them to Jesus, the Lamb. Andrew takes Simon to the Messiah.

Context: From the outset, John has thrown down a rather dangerous gauntlet – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being…14 And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth (John 1:1-3a, 14).

The rest of the Gospel is an attempt to make sense of this! The term “high” Christology refers to the virtual equation of Jesus and God, which is at the heart of the 4th Gospel. This is set in tension with the notion of Jewish monotheism in the Gospel of John. For example, the Jewish leaders accuse Jesus of “making himself equal to God” (5:18), accuse him of making himself God (10:33), or understand certain of his claims as blasphemous claims to divine identity (8:58–59; 10:30–31, 38–39). “These debates in John’s Gospel are often thought to reflect debates that were going on in the Gospel’s context between Christians and non-Christian Jews, who found the Christian claims for Jesus incompatible with Jewish monotheism” (Richard Bauckham). This is how I (and many commentators) would see the context of John – a foray into the divine identity of the Messiah. How could the one true God of Israel (Deut. 6:4) be manifest in a crucified Jew?

Intertext: 50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”  [John 1:50-51]

This ought to remind you of:

10 Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. 11 He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. 12 And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it (Gen. 28:10-12).

Is Jesus ‘Jacob’s ladder’? Perhaps Jesus is the bridge between heaven and earth; perhaps true divinity is perfect humanity – perhaps Jacob’s dream is the true dream of all people, to find that place where God and man meet, where the divine and the human are one? Maybe the passage draws a parallel between the disciples and Jacob, indicating that they, like Jacob, will see a heavenly vision which is realized in the vision of faith of the community which confessed Jesus as the divine Son of Man, equal to God. 

Keywords: ‘come and see’ (v. 46 – cf. 1:39); ‘I saw you under the fig tree’ (v. 49; cf. v. 50); ‘You will see greater things than these’ (v. 50); ‘you will see heaven opened…’ (v. 51). Compare this with what is in the co-textLook, here is the Lamb of God!” (1:36); When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, “What are you looking for?” (1:38); “Come and see.” They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day (1:39); He first found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (1:41);  He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas” (1:42).

There are other key words/ideas – let’s just think about one – seeing, seeking and finding. The disciples seek the Messiah, only to find out that Jesus had ‘seen’ them even before – Jesus’ prophesies – ‘I saw you before you knew I’d seen you’. Jesus sees beyond what is right in front of his face, as all his followers will need to. They will eventually need to see well beyond the cruel and violent death of their Lord in order to see that therein lay the very inner workings of the divine plan to rescue humankind from its own self-destructive ways!

Conjunctive phrases: Truly, truly, I say to you…

See how this term works in John 3:5; 5:19, 24; 6:32, etc (it appears a lot!!!!). It clearly introduces profound moments in John. How does it function in John 1:51?

Piecing the above together, ask yourself – what is John trying to convey to his readers? Hold those thoughts!

EMOTIONAL

These are the key questions one ought to ask when thinking of the Bible as story:

  1. What does this passage tell me about God?
  2. What does the passage tell me about my world/the world?
  3. What does the passage tell me about me?
  4. What questions would you add to the above?

Those ideas, you need to reflect and meditate on! The answers to the above will be different for every believer (or indeed non-believer). You may conclude that there is something you need to do, someone you need to speak to, a place you need to go to mentally, a fear you need to address, a memory you need to resurrect, a book you need to read, a song you need to listen to (for me this is currently “Backseat” by Carina Round – don’t ask me why!!!) – whatever it is, let these thoughts and emotions bring you prayer. This might involve you screaming to/at God or sitting in complete silence for an hour.

Ultimately, we are to be caught up in the great story – again, let me cite McKnight, who is hard to improve upon:

God chose to give us a collection of books, what I call wiki-stories of the Story, and together these books form into God’s story with us and God’s story for us. Acts 7 is a good example of how to read the Bible as Story even though Stephen’s speech in Acts 7 is only one wiki-story of the Story. Again, each author in the Bible is a wiki-storyteller and each book is then a wiki-story, one story in the ongoing development of the big story. These are the major elements of that story:

1. God and creation

2. Adam and Eve as Eikons (images) who crack the Eikon

3. God’s covenant community, where humans are restored to God, self, others, and the world

4. Jesus Christ, who is the Story and in whose story we are to live

5. The church as Jesus’ covenant community

6. The consummation, when all the designs of our Creator God will finally be realized forever and ever

What we discover in reading the Bible is that each telling of the Story, each wiki-story, was a Spirit-inspired telling of the Story in each person’s day in each person’s way. God spoke through Moses in Moses’ ways for Moses’ days, through David in David’s ways for David’s days, through Jesus in Jesus’ ways for Jesus’ days, and through John in John’s ways for John’s days. God always speaks a “contemporary” word. The genius of the Bible is the continuity of the Story as each generation learns to speak it afresh in its days and in its ways. (McKnight, Parakeet, 210.)

Finally, a few mechanical pointers:

  1. Have a go to commentary – I’d suggest The New International Bible Commentary: With the New International Version (F F Bruce, Zondervan Understand the Bible Reference) or New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition (Carson, Motyer, France, Wenham), for a blend of faith and accessible scholarship.
  2. Take time over specialist commentaries on particular books of the Bible by believing scholars – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – Tom Wright ‘For Everyone’ Series (all books of the NT covered).
  3. Find your connection media – music, landscapes, lectures, songs, poetry – whatever opens you up emotionally, and use it to pray. Not all prayer is a recital of words – sometimes all you are trying to say is help me and thank you! Other times you are trying to say I’ve had enough or I need you; whatever you need to say in prayer, try to open yourself up in an emotional sense – whatever makes you feel an inner beauty, sadness, joy, fear, or desire to dance – place yourself there and reflect on the passage and the grand story!

Andy Boakye

August 2018

 

You can purchase Andy’s book, “Death and Life: Resurrection, restoration and rectification in Paul’s letter to the Galatians”, here.

Please leave a comment, and pass the link on to anyone you think might be interested.

God bless, Malcolm