Let’s imagine that I am not getting along with my wife. I tell you that she is beautiful and charming and kind and hospitable and that I’ve always liked her long hair and the twinkle in her eyes.
Our wedding ceremony was beautiful. Wonderful food. Our best friends were there. The best day of my life.
But my wife and I have been having some problems. I need your help.
Actually, to my surprise, I am finding my wife to be totally unreasonable. I want you to convince her she is wrong.
She says I don’t listen to her, that I ignore her.
When she says that, I hold up our wedding certificate and remind her what a great wedding ceremony we had and how good the food was and all the close friends who were there.
So why do I have to listen to her now? We are married. Here is the certificate. Doesn’t it look nice?
She says I don’t have time for her. Can you believe any woman would be that unreasonable?
I remind her I am her husband. We were married. Our best friends attended the wedding dinner. The food was great. Here is the wedding certificate. Why do I have to spend time with her? Why is she so demanding?
Please tell her she is wrong. How can such a beautiful woman be so off base?
What should you tell her to make her agree with me? You shouldn’t tell her anything. I am the one who is wrong. And the key issue is: “What is marriage?” Is it a wonderful ceremony and nothing else? Or is it a lifelong relationship? A lifelong relationship that requires talking and listening?
How many people think marriage is just the ceremony and nothing else?
How many people think marriage is a lifelong relationship? Everyone.
Here is the point:
Do we see the same thing is true for followers of Jesus?
Are you a follower of Jesus if you ask Him to be your Savior and do absolutely nothing else? That’s it?
Or does being a follower of Jesus include the prayer for Him to be your Savior followed by a lifelong relationship?
Did Jesus die on the cross for our sins so we can say one prayer asking Him to be our Savior and then proceed to ignore Him until we go to heaven?
That is nonsense.
20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
The Christian life is Christ living in us helping us to live for Him moment by moment.
I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
Note that underlined last phrase. Oh, we can go, go, go being busy morning to night. But in God’s eyes, if we have not depended on Him, we have accomplished nothing. Apart from dependence on God we waste our lives. Who wants that?
2 Corinthians 5:10
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
This is an appointment that no Christian will miss. In the future of every single person who has put his faith and trust in Christ is the time when God will evaluate what we have done since we began to follow Him. It’s judgment time for believers – not for the purpose of seeing whether we get to stay in heaven – that is not negotiable. He will judge us to reward us for the kind of life we have lived. If we ignored God and did our own thing, don’t expect much reward. Ouch! Who wants to stand in front of the One who died for our sins and have little to show for it?
Since Christianity is a moment by moment relationship with God, that changes everything. Just as you spend time with your wife or your friends or your children in love relationships, you and I were meant to spend time with our heavenly Daddy in a love relationship.
Going off on a tangent for a minute: if the Christian life is just a list of rules
and your time in the Bible is meant to be a time to find more rules, you will dread Bible reading. There is a huge difference between having a love relationship with Jesus Christ versus reducing the Christian life only to a list of rules. Yes, there are some rules to the Christian life. But they must never dwarf the incredible blessing of a love relationship with your Savior.
If being a follower of Jesus is just a list of rules, you won’t want to read your Bible or talk to Him.
If being a follower of Jesus is a relationship, you want to let Him speak into your life through daily Bible reading and to talk to Him in prayer.
So since the Christian life is meant to be a day by day relationship of listening to God and talking to God, that makes the roots of daily Bible reading and prayer essential.
Daily Bible reading. What can you do to upgrade your daily Bible reading?
- Remind yourself every time you open the Bible that God has something to say to you. God! GOD! The creator of your universe, your maker, wants to talk into your life daily. That makes the Bible different from every other book. And it is!
- Be sure your sins are confessed. Unconfessed sin builds a wall between God and you. Who wants that?
- Obey what you read. “Obedience is the key that unlocks every door in the Christian life”. The more you obey, the more you understand and the closer you get to Him. Just filling your head with facts is dangerous. Learn and obey. Learn and obey.
- Some verses to draw you into the Bible:
Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known
God wants us to teach us great things! Let Him!
1 John 3:1
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.
Listening to the Bible is listening to Daddy. Cool!
Every word of God proves true;
Unlike any other book you read, unlike what your friends tell you,
unlike what you hear via Internet and media, absolutely everything
the Bible tells you is true. Trust it. Build your life on it.
This also comes from the Lord of hosts,
Who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance.
I LOVE this verse. What a promise! Want a life of no regret? Then let Him guide you. Let Him show you the path you should take. TAKE IT!
So why not commit yourself to specific action steps:
- When you open the Bible, turn off your computer, cell phone, radio, TV so you can give God your undivided attention. Doesn’t He deserve that?
- Plan to read the entire Bible. Yes, we all have our favorite books, but since ALL Scripture is from God, then why not let ALL Scripture speak into your life?
- Read your Bible when you are most alert during the day. Why not give God your best?
- Read expectantly with the attitude that God is going to speak to you. Some days God will thrill you with what you read. Other days God will give you quiet reminders. No two days are the same.
- Remind yourself that if you don’t listen and obey what you hear from God, you’ll mess up. Apart from Him, you’ll have nothing to show for your life. Who wants that?
- How long should you read? Don’t keep your eye on the clock. Just get in the habit of opening the book daily.
- Don’t compare. Other people might be faster in understanding the Bible or have more “Oh, wow!” things to share from their Bible readings. Praise God for them! But you are not them. God has His own timetable and plan for you. Let God be your focus!
So much for daily Bible reading.
Let’s look at our prayer life.
What hinders our prayer life?
Five hindrances come to mind:
- Unconfessed sin. More about that later.
- Maybe you have prayed and prayed and not received what you thought you deserved. God’s ways are not our ways. Sometimes we have to die to our own plans, dreams, goals. Sometimes we have to wait.
- Prayer is hard work. It requires focus, time, and intensity. If we are not willing to put in the effort, don’t be surprised God is not willing to respond.
- Maybe we have just been trying to use God for our own goals, our own pleasure, our own means. God will not allow Himself to be used. Do not waste your time trying to use Him..
- Comparison. Wow! That person prayed and look at the great answer to prayer she got. And I have prayed and …..nothing. Comparison is a waste of time. Each of us is a unique person through whom God works in unique ways.
Well, what are some prerequisites the Bible gives us for an effective prayer life?
If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened.
If we refuse to turn from sin, God won’t hear our prayers. Asking God daily to show us any unconfessed sin is a great way to start the day. Be confident that is a prayer He will answer.
Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
Ok. “Dear God, please blow up the house next door. In Jesus’ name, Amen.” No. No. No. Praying something selfish and ending “in Jesus’ name” is not what this is talking about. When it says “in Jesus’ name” it means Jesus signs His name to the prayer because it is in line with His character, His goals. If it isn’t, don’t waste your time.
If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
If we are holding on tight to Jesus and the Bible, God will
answer our prayers. Why? Well, think about it. If we are absorbing Biblical truth into our lives and letting that guide our thoughts and desires, then what we are asking for is most likely what God wants for our lives.
1 John 5:14
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.
Take a good look at that verse. If you pray according to God’s will, He must answer the prayer…….which is why praying according to God’s will has been described as looking into the barrel of a loaded gun. Watch out! Answered prayer is on the way!
What verses can give vigor to your prayer life?
1 John 3:1
See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.
If you have trusted Jesus as your personal Savior, when you pray you are praying to your perfect heavenly Father who delights in you and will show you affection, generosity, and the role you are to have in His plans.
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
Do we confess our sins to friends in order that they forgive our sins? No. Only God can forgive sins. We confess our sins to close friends (whom we have tested to be sure they keep secrets) so that they can pray for us to have deliverance. I’ve had such friends for 30 years and can truly call them brothers because praying for each other on personal issues has woven our lives together. It’s nice to know you don’t have to carry your burdens alone. It’s nice you can go through life with spiritual buddies who are there for you.
On your walls, O Jerusalem,
I have set watchmen;
all the day and all the night
they shall never be silent.
You who put the Lord in remembrance,
take no rest,
7 and give him no rest
until he establishes Jerusalem
and makes it a praise in the earth.
Watchmen cry out constantly here for the city of Jerusalem, giving God no rest in prayer. How awesome it would be to arrive in heaven and hear Jesus describe you as a believer who was unstoppable in your prayers. What an encouragement for us to be persistent in prayer for our country, our church, our family, our evangelism, our own growth in the Lord. God rewards persistence.
For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”
What mountains in your life (huge issues) should you be praying for? Why not make your own Matthew 17:20 prayer list and start pounding away in prayer now?
You do not have, because you do not ask.
Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. What don’t you have because you have not prayed for it?
In your regular prayers do you pray Bible verses? By that I mean find some Bible verses that are particularly appropriate for your life and ask God daily to help you live them? Want some examples? What about
You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.
Why not ask God daily for His peace to dominate your life?
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment.
If that is the great commandment, then why not take it seriously and ask God’s help daily to grow in love for Him?
be wise as serpents and innocent as doves
In a world warped by sin, how about asking God daily for wisdom in dealing with it?
I know, O Lord, that the way of man is not in himself,
that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.
We don’t know how best to use our time. God does. Why not ask Him for sensitivity to use our time wisely every day?
Finally, if you are trying to help other believers grow, have you ever noticed the intensity of Paul’s prayers for believers he was nurturing in the faith? The list is long. The message is overpowering.
For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you
For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, 16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,
And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,
1 Thessalonians 1:2,3
We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
1 Thessalonians 3:9
For what thanks can we render to God for you, for all the joy with which we rejoice for your sake before our God
2 Thessalonians 1:3
We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other,
2 Timothy 1:3
I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day
Disciplemakers must throw themselves into prayer for the lives of those they seek to disciple. “Every step in the advancement of missions, discipleship and the church is directly traceable to prayer”
Want some practical suggestions to aid your prayer life?
- divide your prayers into categories: personal, family, friends, ministry. Keep separate lists for each. That might help you to give some needed structure to your prayer life.
- Keep a personal prayer journal where you write down answers to prayer. Maybe keep this on your computer so it will be difficult for others to find.
- When someone gives you a prayer request, write it down immediately. You don’t want to let the person down by forgetting to pray for them.
As we listen and obey God daily when we read our Bible and talk to Him through prayer, look at what we are doing. We are walking through our earthly existence with God. Many people don’t have time for us. God always has time for us. Many people in our lives will pass away. God will always be there. Most people are not available during parts of the day because of sleep or their job. God is always available. Do we get it that Christianity is a 24/7 eternal relationship with the One who made us, saved us, and runs the universe? Just how exciting is that!