January 18, 2014
Today’s Text of Encouragement:
“In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.”
Isaiah 30: 15
King James Version
Today’s Study Text:
“Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that.”
II Corinthians 12: 7
The Message Bible
“Paul’s Persistent Prayer”
“We must not talk about prayer, we must pray in right earnest.”
Andrew A. Bonar
When I have a specific need in my life, how persistent am I in going to my Father with my need?
Have I ever “given up” praying for something just because the answer didn’t come as quickly as I thought it should?
“You must pray with all your might. That does not mean saying your prayers, or sitting gazing about in church or chapel with eyes wide open while someone else says them for you. It means fervent, effectual, untiring wrestling with God…This kind of prayer be sure the devil and the world and your own indolent, unbelieving nature will oppose. They will pour water on this flame.”
“’Continuing instant in prayer’ Romans 12: 12. The Greek is a metaphor taken from hunting dogs that never give over the game till they have their prey.”
In a few days, our little miniature dachshund, Baby Ethel, will celebrate her 9th birthday. Obviously, she’s not a baby anymore, but needless to say, she is treated like “our baby,” even sleeping on her own pillow, under the covers in our bed each night.
Jim and I have certainly learned a lot from Baby Ethel. Her breed of dog was trained as “burrowing” dogs, hunting for badgers in particular, I am told. And wow, we have certainly seen Ethel’s techniques as she digs in holes with a ferocity that is beyond anything I could imagine for a creature with such a small yet powerful body.
But there’s one other thing about Ethel that I’ve learned. Once she takes off after some smell or odor, look out! She is a terror. You can’t stop her or change her direction. She’s beyond persistent. She keeps at whatever task she’s taken up, until, as the Greek language notes in Romans 12: 12,,”she gets her prey,” even if it is an old “chew stick” that’s hidden under the bed.
We could all take a few lessons from a precious creature like Ethel who doesn’t give up – especially if we would apply this persistent drive to our personal prayer lives.
The author of Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan wrote that we should, “Pray often, for prayer is a shield to the soul, a sacrifice to God, and a scourge to Satan.”
The more I pray, the more I find this statement to be true. And it isn’t because all my prayers have been answered in the way I want or in the timeline I desire. Instead, it is because I’m constantly amazed at the changes in my own life which take place through the transforming power of persistent prayer.
In our study text for this entire week, II Corinthians 12: 7, we have found that the Apostle Paul was given a “thorn in the flesh.” This was some form of torment which caused him great affliction. He called it a “messenger of Satan” – something from the evil one which sought continuously to discourage Paul.
But as the Message Bible so beautifully conveys, what was designed by Satan to drive Paul into the ground, drove him onto his knees. And not just once, but Paul states that three specific times he went to his knees, begging God to take this thorn away.
I’d like to insert here that we must never fear that our Father in heaven has some magic number taped above each of our problems and unless we pray a certain number of times for something, He won’t answer our prayer. No! This is not the way God works. Being persistent in prayer has a lot more to do with my internal heart than the external need I may want changed.
The great prayer warrior, Oswald Chambers helped clarify this thought for me when he encouraged us to, “Keep praying in order to get a perfect understanding of God Himself.” And this is and has been over the past few months, one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned in my own prayer life.
From my personal testimony, one year ago yesterday, I began to pray for some very specific needs in my own life. I even asked several friends to pray for these needs, which they were gracious enough to do. Joy of joy, within sixty days, everything I had laid out, oh so perfectly, fell into place – faster and easier than I could ever have dreamed.
And then, from out of left field, I went to a regular, routine meeting and to say everything blew up in my face would be a total understatement.
I was devastated. Every perfectly laid plan seemed to go up in smoke and little old Dorothy found out she wasn’t in control of the situation at all. This was where I found myself “prayer challenged,” in a way unlike any time in my life before. I quickly realized that nothing I was doing or could do would solve this big mess. So with a great deal of reluctance, I took my hands off the steering wheel and told God, “This is Your car, it’s Your journey and I’m going to trust You in a way like I have never trusted You before.” It hasn’t been easy. Some moments are better than others – but what I’m learning, day by day, is that as I persist in my conversation with my Father, His way becomes clearer before me. He doesn’t need to tell me what He has planned for two weeks from now, today is all I can handle, and He knows this fact better than I do. So each new morning when I awake, I ask for guidance, courage, strength and wisdom for just one day – and I’ll continue to persevere with my Father showing me His Will each step of the way.
For all of us “control-freaks” who like to do all the navigating ourselves, the walk of faith and prayer calls for a renewed dedication to our Father’s Will for our lives – but believe me when I say that getting to know our Father’s Will for each of us is a joy beyond compare.
As we recognize the persistence Paul showed in his prayer life these particular words by John Eudes highlight the value in continued prayer, “There are some favors the Almighty does not grant either the first, or the second, or the third time you ask Him, because He wishes you to pray for a long time and often. He wills this delay to keep you in a state of humility…and makes you realize the value of His graces.” So in the words of Evagrios the Solitary, let us, “persevere with patience in your prayer, and repulse the cares and doubts that arise within you.”
“Be thou my vision. O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that thou art;
Thou my best thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, thy presence my light.”
Eighth century Irish hymn, trans.
By Mary Byrne (1880-1931 and Eleanor Hull (1860-1935)
“ O Christ,
tirelessly You seek out those who are looking for You
and who think that You are far away;
teach us, at every moment,
to place our spirits in Your hands.
While we are still looking for You,
already You have found us.
However poor our prayer,
You hear us far more than we can imagine or believe.”
Brother Roger of Taiza
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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