Thursday, January 20, 2011

Day 11: Prayer and the Process

Seven times Elijah told him to go and look. Finally the seventh time, his servant told him, “I saw a little cloud about the size of a man’s hand rising from the sea.” Then Elijah shouted, “Hurry to Ahab and tell him, ‘Climb into your chariot and go back home. If you don’t hurry, the rain will stop you!’” 1 Kings 18:43–44, NLT

“How do I know God is going to say yes to my prayers?”
This is a common question many people have as they seek a confident prayer life. However, it’s important to recognize that prayer is not just about the answer; it’s also about glorifying God in the process of waiting for the answer. It is our responsibility to check our motives and believe God hears us.

We see an example of the process of prayer in this story of Elijah (1 Kings 18). Elijah climbed to the top of the mountain to pray for rain to come. As he waited for the rain, he continued to pray, believing God would answer. When he finally saw a small cloud, he told Ahab to get ready because the rain was coming. Elijah knew what to pray for, and God heard him the first time he prayed. But there was preparation that needed to take place in order for Elijah to receive the answer to his prayer.

Prayer is not just about the answer; it’s also about glorifying God in the process of waiting for the answer.

It is no mistake that God waited until Elijah had prayed seven times before He answered. In the Bible, seven represents completion. In this story, seven represents the completion of God’s process regarding Elijah’s prayer request.

God does not want merely to answer our prayers; He wants to spend time with us to prepare us for the answer that will come. Many times we want to skip over the process involved in engaging God in prayer as we wait for our answer. But it is this very process that works maturity in us and prepares us for the answers our prayers bring (James 1:4).

The reason why many fail in battle is because they wait until the hour of battle. The reason why others succeed is because they have gained their victory on their knees long before the battle came.... Anticipate your battles; fight them on your knees before temptation comes, and you will always have victory. —R. A. Torrey

Prayer Focus: What prayers of yours are still awaiting an answer? Throughout this fast, thank God for His process at work in you...and trust Him.

Day 10: Unwavering Faith

But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. James 1:6, KJV

What do you expect when you pray?
When we pray with earnest expectation, we are exercising our faith. The earnest prayer of righteous people produces powerful results (James 5:16, NLT), and the most earnest prayers come from us when we recognize our need for God.

There can be a natural tendency to shrink back when praying for the seemingly impossible, but we must remember that nothing is impossible with God (Luke 1:37). If we know the promises that God has given us, and understand His character and the principles by which He works, we can pray with confidence and trust Him for the answer.

The most earnest prayers come from us when we recognize our need for God.
What has caused you to waver in your expectation with God? James reminds us that faith and wavering are actually contradictory—James says “nothing wavering.” Know that God never wavers in His love for you. You can trust Him completely.

There is no way that Christians, in a private capacity, can do so much to promote the work of God and advance the kingdom of Christ as by prayer. —Jonathan Edwards

When we depend upon organizations, we get what organizations can do; when we depend upon education, we get what education can do; when we depend upon man, we get what man can do; but when we depend upon prayer, we get what God can do. —A. C. Dixon

Prayer Focus: What are you trusting God for in this season? How can you line up your expectations with the Word of God when you pray? Find promises in His Word that answer your need and write them down today.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Day 9: Clean House

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
—Romans 8:5–6

Have you ever looked at the top of your refrigerator or in the deep recesses of your couch cushions and noticed the filth that has built up over time? Even though we might clean on a regular basis, there are times when we need to go...a little deeper. We realize that what appeared to be clean on the surface was in all actuality, quite filthy.

The same thing can happen spiritually. As we go about our daily lives, there are things that can build up over time. Even if we worship, pray, and read our Bible regularly, the different temptations, pressures, and cares of this world can build up quietly and end up consuming our lives. Without even realizing it, we can lose our peace, joy, and passion for the things of God. Our service to God, which used to fill us with life and excitement, becomes a tiresome duty that we must fulfill.

Fasting is the deep cleaning that helps us take our minds off of the things of this world and instead have a refreshed focus on the things of the Spirit. Fasting offers an incredibly effective way to get into the nooks and crannies of our souls and bring all those dusty old habits, broken mindsets, and rusty attitudes out into the light of God’s truth.

Fasting is the deep cleaning that helps us take our mind off of the things of this world and instead have a refreshed focus on the things of the Spirit.

In fasting and prayer, our service to God returns to something we want to do rather than something we have to do.

One of the reasons for fasting is to know what is in us.... In fasting it will come out. You will see it. And you will have to deal with it quickly or smother it again. —John Piper

Prayer Focus: As you pray and fast today, ask God to show you any areas where you could use a refreshed spiritual focus. Pray as David did in Psalm 51:10–12 that God will cleanse your heart, renew your spirit, and restore the joy of your salvation. Pray with confidence, knowing that He wants to fill you with His life and peace.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Day 8: Hear Him

This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.”... And when they looked up, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus.
—Matthew 17:5, 8, NLT

On the Mount of Transfiguration three disciples had an experience that showed us the Father’s plan for the New Covenant. Jesus took Peter, James, and John up to the top of a mountain where He was transfigured into His glorified state. Up until this point, the Jews had related to God through the Law—represented by Moses and the prophets, one being Elijah. Inspired by what he was seeing, Peter eagerly offered to erect three tabernacles—one each for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah. Then a loud voice from heaven was heard: “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” When the disciples looked up, they saw only Jesus.

You cannot earn God’s pleasure, but you can experience it to a greater degree as you follow Jesus Christ.

On that mountain God made it clear that we will only discover His pleasure by following Jesus. God’s grace is freely given to those who receive new life in Him. Sometimes, though, there are areas of our lives where we do not fully embrace God’s grace. There may be circumstances or areas where we still try to earn our way to the Father.

You cannot earn God’s pleasure, but you can experience it to a greater degree as you follow Jesus Christ. As you seek God today, ask Him for a greater revelation of Jesus in your heart. Then will you be reminded that you are a beloved child of God. And that He finds pleasure in you.

If heaven were by merit, it would never be heaven to me, for if I were in it I should say, “I am sure I am here by mistake; I am sure this is not my place; I have no claim to it.” But if it be of grace and not of works, then we may walk into heaven with boldness. —Charles H. Spurgeon

Prayer Focus: Pray for those who need to accept Jesus as their Savior.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Day 7: Fervent Prayer

The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.—James 5:16
Fervency speaks to our level of intensity, passion, and persistence. Many times, we can lose our passion in prayer or stop praying for certain things altogether because we lose heart or give up. But God invites us to keep them before Him and trust Him for an answer in His time (Matthew 7:7–11).

The Old Testament prophet Elijah practiced a lifestyle of fervent, intense prayer and witnessed incredible miracles in his lifetime. In the book of Kings, the story is told of a woman whose only son became ill and died (1 Kings 17:17– 24). When Elijah heard the news, he quickly took action and did what he knew best—he fervently cried out to God. Elijah fully believed that God could bring the boy back to life, and he prayed not just once but three times that the boy’s soul would return to him. He prayed fervently and repeatedly and he wasn’t going to give up. This was the result: “Then the LORD heard the voice of Elijah; and the soul of the child came back to him, and he revived” (verse 22).

Many times, we can lose our passion in prayer or stop praying for certain things altogether because we lose heart or give up. But God invites us to keep them before Him and trust Him for an answer in His time.

Elijah’s prayer was answered through his persistence and fervency. God hears your prayers as well and will bring an answer in His perfect timing. But don’t be discouraged or disheartened if the answer takes time to arrive or is not exactly what you expected. Commit to praying to God with passion and persistence, trusting the answer will come in God’s perfect way at the perfect time.

We must never forget that the highest kind of prayer is never the making of requests. Prayer at its holiest moment is the entering into God, to a place of such blessed union as it makes miracles seem tame and remarkable answers to prayer appear something very far short of wonderful by comparison. —A. W. Tozer

Prayer Focus: As you close out this first week, continue to pray fervently for the main areas of concern in your life. Trust God to bring an answer as you journal your thoughts and inspirations through this time.

Day 6: The Spirit is Willing

And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t. I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway. But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
—Romans 7:18–20, NLT

There’s an internal war that rages within each of us. Paul described this so well in Romans 7. Though we desire to do the right thing, we don’t have the power to do so in our own efforts and we mess up.

The good news is that we don’t have to rely on our own strength to make right decisions. We don’t have to be dominated by our sinful nature and end up doing the things we don’t want to do. But the only way we can live this kind of life is by yielding to the Holy Spirit and relying on the strength of Jesus Christ, not our own.

When we’re facing struggles, we must rely on God’s power alive within us through the Holy Spirit. When we are born again, the Holy Spirit resides in us and places in us the desire to do what is pleasing to God (Hebrews 10:16). The Holy Spirit always wants to do what is right and to uphold the perfect will of God, pleasing the Father in every way.

When we’re facing struggles, we must rely on God’s power alive within us through the Holy Spirit.

It is our job to lay down our stubborn fleshly will and yield to the will of God. In that moment, the Holy Spirit will be there to help us. Let’s learn to yield to and become totally reliant upon the Holy Spirit.

[Prayer] turns ordinary mortals into men of power. It brings power. It brings fire. It brings rain. It brings life. It brings God. —Samuel Chadwick

Prayer Focus: Are there areas in your life causing an internal struggle? Make a decision today to yield to the Holy Spirit and lean on His strength, not your own, and to overcome obstacles of sin and selfishness in your life. Surrender and release those areas to God, knowing He will help you.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Day 5: When Grace Comes Down

For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:17

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a personal visit with God? What would He say about the state of humanity? about religion? about our propensity toward sin?

There is no need to wonder about what God is like or would say, because to know Him, we have only to look at Jesus. In Jesus we have received grace, but there is even something more we have received: truth.

The kind of truth John spoke of in today’s scripture is not a list of laws and rules such as were given to Moses. Make no mistake—the revelation of God through the word of the Law was glorious. When Moses came down from Mount Sinai after receiving the ten commandments, his face shone so brightly with the glory of God that he had to wear a veil (Exodus 34:33-35). But the word of the Law cannot compare with the word of life that has been revealed through Jesus Christ!

In John 1:18 we learn that no one, not even Moses, has ever seen God. But Jesus has not only seen God—He is God. The truth that John was speaking about is a clear and unveiled vision of the true nature of God.

It is from a state of grace, not legalism, that we will find real and lasting transformation.

Looking at God through the lens of legalism and religion is like looking at Him through a veil. Only when we see Him though Jesus Christ can we truly get a glimpse into His heart. It is from a state of grace, not legalism, that we will find real and lasting transformation (2 Corinthians 3:7–18).

"I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am." —John Newton

Prayer Focus: Have you been looking at God through the veil of legalism and religion? In Jesus, we see the full revelation of the nature of God: His love and holiness, mercy and justice, compassion and power all perfectly and beautifully expressed. Pray that the Holy Spirit will help you see God through the eyes of grace and truth given to us in Jesus Christ.

Day 4: Agreement with the will of God

Can two walk together, unless they are agreed? Amos 3:3

In the heart of every believer is the desire to walk closely with God. We know that He, too, desires a close relationship with each one of us. A key to having a strong level of spiritual intimacy with God is living in agreement with His will for your life.

In Genesis 5:22, we read of Enoch and see that his life modeled a long journey, walking consistently with God, for it says, “Enoch walked with God three hundred years.” Enoch lived a powerful life. He was a man who walked in agreement with God’s will and lived a life pleasing to God (Hebrews 11:5).

The level of our agreement with God will determine the degree of closeness in our walk with Him.

It is one thing to know God’s will for our lives; it’s another to live in agreement with His will. In order to enjoy the best life that God has for us, we must first understand that God does not change, but we sometimes must. Let’s earnestly seek to know and agree with God’s will. The level of our agreement with God will determine the degree of closeness in our walk with Him.

"I believe firmly that the moment our hearts are emptied of pride and selfishness and ambition and everything that is contrary to God’s law, the Holy Spirit will fill every corner of our hearts. But if we are full of pride and conceit and ambition and the world, there is no room for the Spirit of God. We must be emptied before we can be filled." —D. L. Moody

Prayer Focus: Pray today that you can walk in agreement with God and enjoy the life He desires you to have in Christ.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Day 3: Fasting removes unbelief

Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”
—Matthew 17:18–21

When we pray and fast, we don’t do so to change God or His will; by praying and fasting, we are the ones changed. Coming into alignment with God helps us curb our doubts and fears. When we pray and fast, the thing that leaves—the thing that goes out—is our unbelief. It is when we have faith to believe that we can pray with confidence and know that “nothing will be impossible.”

Ask God to strengthen your heart to fully believe Him and His Word. It is okay to recognize and acknowledge if you struggle with unbelief. That’s the first step in allowing God to strengthen your faith and bring you into alignment with His plan for your life.

Beware in your prayers, above everything else, of limiting God, not only by unbelief, but by fancying that you know what He can do. Expect...“above all that we ask or think.” —Andrew Murray

Prayer Focus: What do you need faith to believe for? Align yourself with God’s Word and will during this fast. Release your unbelief. Pray with confidence, knowing “nothing will be impossible” for you.

Day 2: Tune In

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. —John 10:27

Have you ever tried to tune in a radio station only to be frustrated by finding static rather than music? And when you fiddled with the dial again, suddenly you hear a clear signal. The fact is that clear signal always existed on the airwaves. The difference is that now you have adjusted your tuner to the right frequency.

In our hectic lives, there are so many signals bombarding our senses that it can become difficult to distinguish God’s voice from the deafening static noise of life. Fasting enables us to tune out the world’s distractions and tune in to God. As we fast, we deny our flesh. When we deny our flesh, we become more in tune to the Holy Spirit and can hear God’s voice more clearly. If you truly listen for God’s voice, you will hear it. And when you hear it, your faith will increase.
Fasting enables us to tune out the world’s distractions and tune in to God.

If you desire to tune out the static of life and really tune into the voice of God, come to Him first and foremost with ears willing to listen and a heart ready to obey what He says (Psalm 34:18; Isaiah 66:2). The more we practice being in His presence, the clearer and more recognizable His voice becomes.

"Fasting is more important, more important perhaps than many of us have supposed.... When exercised with a pure heart and a right motive, fasting may provide us with a key to unlock doors where others may have failed; a window opening up new horizons in the unseen world, a spiritual weapon of God’s provision, mighty to the pulling down of strongholds." —Arthur Wallis

Prayer Focus: In this time of fasting, what is your mind tuned to? What distractions do you need to remove so that you can focus on God? Prepare your heart to hear the voice of God, and ask Him to help you remove distractions that keep you from focusing on Him and hearing His voice clearly.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Day 1: 21 Day Fast

Return to Me

“Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” Joel 2:12, NIV

If we look at the kind of fasting that took place in the Old Testament, it would be easy to assume that the reason for fasting is to gain forgiveness. In the book of Joel, the Israelites had wandered far from God, and their sinfulness had resulted in famine and pestilence in the land. Through the prophet Joel, God called them to repentance, ordering them to declare a sacrificial fast, which along with mourning and weeping, would show God the sincerity of their repentance. In return the prophet said that perhaps God would “turn and have pity and leave behind a blessing” (verse 14, NIV).

Such a fast of repentance is seen in the Old Testament time and again, because under the Old Covenant, man had to rely on his works and sacrifices to avert the wrath of God. But under the New Covenant, we don’t have to fast for forgiveness. Every wrong we have done and will do was forgiven at the cross, and when we accept Christ, we live under the New Covenant of grace and forgiveness!

First Thessalonians 5:9 tells us that “God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (NIV). So then, why do we, as people under the New Covenant, devote ourselves to fasting and prayer?

We don’t have to fast for forgiveness. Every wrong we have done and will do was forgiven at the cross.

As we walk with God, there are times that we feel far from Him or disconnected. Joel’s words resonate with us, even if we live in a context of grace: “return to me with all your heart.” There are times we realize that though we have chosen to follow Jesus, the flame of our love for Him has grown cold.

Your time spent in prayer each day of the fast can result in a new richness, a rewarding connection with the Father. No matter where you are on your journey with Jesus, you can always take a step closer toward Him.

I believe the power of fasting as it relates to prayer is the spiritual atomic bomb that our Lord has given us to destroy the strongholds of evil and usher in a great revival and spiritual harvest around the world. —Bill Bright

Prayer Focus: As we begin this time of prayer and fasting, let’s turn our hearts toward God. Make a commitment to seek Him daily. Pray that your love for Christ will be increased and your passion for Him will be reignited over the next twenty-one days.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Awakening: 21 Days of Fasting and Prayer

At the beginning of each year, we engage in a season of prayer and fasting. This has proven to jump start our new year with huge spiritual momentum that sets the tone for our effectiveness throughout the year.

In years past, we have seen increased salvations, breakthroughs and miracles as we chose to put God first at the onset of the year. I believe with all my heart that for the church to prevail in this next season, a culture of prayer and fasting in our churches is vital.

So we are joining thousands of churches for a season of fasting and prayer from January 10th to January 30th. In addition, we are reading through the bible in one year. If you haven't received one already, you can pick up your bookmark for the chronological bible reading for 2011 at service on Sunday. In just a few minutes a day, we can all read through the Bible...together.

So looking forward to 2011. Prayer, fasting, and reading God's word are the foundation to a phenomenal year in Jesus regardless of our circumstances. It is this very foundation that lets us rise above it all to an amazing year.