Claiming God’s Promises

Not every single word in the Bible applies directly to each person reading it. It’s all inspired by God and we can learn from it, of course, but not everything applies to everyone directly. For example, some cleanliness laws in the Old Testament were gender specific and some prophecies were delivered to a specific person or group (like the dream warning Nebuchadnezzar he would become like an animal for 7 years).

But we can take this observation too far. We might make the mistake of thinking that because warnings to follow God alone were delivered to ancient Israel they don’t apply to us today. Yet the New Testament confirms we still need to make a choice between darkness and light (Deut. 30:15-20; 1 John 1:5-2:6). This type of thinking can also block us from accepting encouraging promises as well.

Have you ever read one of God’s promises and thought, “That sounds wonderful, but it can’t really apply to me?” I’m sure many of us have. For me personally, I struggle with believing God will answer my prayers the way He promises too (mostly I feel like my prayers for other people aren’t effective). But does that mean God’s promise to hear when we call doesn’t apply to me? Of course not. And I’ve even seen some examples of His direct responses to my prayers. My doubts and anxieties don’t cancel His promises. But they can block me from recognizing or accepting His work with, in, and for me.Claiming God's Promises | marissabaker.wordpress.com

God’s Presence In You

The Holy Spirit is one thing God promises to new believers. Jesus told His disciples the Father would give them the Holy Spirit after He left and we see that promise fulfilled quite spectacularly in Acts 2. As the narrative continues, a pattern emerges where believers receive the gift of the Holy Spirit when they covenant with God at baptism. And it’s made clear that this promise isn’t just for the people of that time. Continue reading

Asking The Father To Work In And Complete Us

Prayers are how we talk to God and, if we’re listening, one way He talks with us. The Bible contains several example prayers that can give us a guide, including many we don’t often think of. I’ve noticed that Paul tells people he’s writing epistles to that he’s praying for them, but before last week’s post I hadn’t thought much about using those as model prayers. In that post, we talked about the first prayer Paul records for the Ephesians. In this post, we’ll talk about the second.click to read article, "Asking The Father To Work In And Complete Us" | marissabaker.wordpress.com

To give some context, Paul has been talking about his role in preaching “the unsearchable riches of Christ” and ministering to the Gentiles. These riches include the fact that the Father now offers salvation to all men. Because of His work through our Lord Jesus Christ, we can boldly access God’s wisdom and revealed mysteries. With that discussion in place, Paul writes,

 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named (Eph. 3:14-15, KJV)

Last week, in examining Paul’s earlier prayer in Ephesians, we looked at the work God is doing in us through Christ and the monumental importance of Jesus’ role. But in focusing on Jesus, we must never forget where it all starts. The Father directs Christ’s work, leads the family of which He made Jesus the Head (Eph. 1:22), and is directly involved with the work being done. Asking the Father to work in believers is the focus of this prayer. Continue reading

Opening Eyes and Deepening Conversions In Jesus Christ

If you’re like me, you’ve wondered, “What should I pray about?” and “How should I pray for others?” We know we’re supposed to pray as Christians and we’re given model prayers, but our prayer’s exact contents are left up to us. That makes sense — prayer is a conversation with God, not a recitation. But that also means we have to keep studying our Bibles to keep a good dialogue going between us and our Creator, as well as to gain deeper insights into how we ought to pray.

Paul’s epistles include several beautiful examples of his prayers for fellow believers. The book of Ephesians has two, both related to further deepening of their faith. A comment in last week’s sermon drew my attention to the second of these prayers, and I noticed the other when re-reading the whole letter. I was going to cover both in one article, but there’s far too much depth to cut the Bible study short. We’ll only talk about one of these prayers today.click to read article, "Opening Eyes and Deepening Conversions In Jesus Christ" | marissabaker.wordpress.com

Paul opens this letter blessing “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3). He talks about redemption, grace, and God’s will for us, along with our trust in Christ and the assurances we’ve been given of a glorious future. Then he says,

Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers (Eph. 1:15-16)

Paul’s not just praying for them. He’s also giving thanks that they’re already walking by faith in the Lord and loving the brethren. They’re practicing important commandments and grounded in fundamental truths. Because of that, he can pray they would experience a deeper conversion. Continue reading

Praying For You

I’ve written about prayer before, but I want to shift the focus this time from praying for everyone (1 Tim. 2:1, 8) to praying for our brethren. There are numerous examples of praying for those close to us and who share our faith. Jesus prayed for His disciples and “for them also which shall believe on Me through their word” (John 17:20). Paul mentions that he prays for the brethren (Rom. 1:9; 2 Cor. 13:7; Eph. 1:16; Php. 1:4, 9; Col. 1:3, 9; 1 Thes. 1:2, 3:10; 2 Thes. 1:11; 2 Tim 1:3; Phm. 1:4 ) and instructs his readers to pray for each other, for him, and for others in ministry (Rom. 15:30; 2 Cor. 1:11; Eph. 6:18; Col. 4:2-3, 12; 1 Thes. 5:25; 2 Thes. 3:1; Heb. 13:18). James tells us to “pray one for another, that ye may be healed” (Jas. 5:16).

Each time Paul says that he is praying for the brethren, he mentions specific things he is praying. In Romans, it is that he will be able to visit them shortly. In 2 Corinthians, he prays that they would “do no evil.” In Ephesians, he asks “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him”. Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Timothy, and Philemon record general requests made on someone’s behalf.

In Colossians and 2 Thessalonians, Paul gives more extensive lists of specific things he was praying for. These can serve as a model when we are praying for each other. The focus is on spiritual matters, praying for a person to increase in knowledge and develop a closer relationship with God.

For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness (Col 1:9-11)

Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Thes. 1:11-12)

Jas 5:16  Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.  Jas 5:17  Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain: and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.  Jas 5:18  And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit. From James 5:16, we know that “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.” Prayer is one of the most helpful things we can do for another person. We should never feel like, “I just don’t know what I can do to help” as long as we are able to pray.

I’m going to end this post with a lovely prayer recorded in Psalm 20 as translated in The Holy Bible in its Original Order. Usually I prefer the King James for Psalms, but the translation for this psalm makes the prayer seem more personal, and God’s help nearer.

May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble, the name of the God of Jacob set you on high, may He send you help from the sanctuary, and strengthen you out of Zion. May He remember all your offerings and accept your burnt sacrifice. Selah. May He grant you according to your own heart and fulfill all your plans.

We will shout for joy in your victory, and in the name of our God we will set up banners; may the Lord fulfill all your prayers. Now I know that the Lord saves His anointed; He will answer him from His holy heaven with the saving strength of His right hand.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we will remember the name of the Lord our God. They are brought down and fallen, but we have risen and stand upright. Save, O Lord; let the King hear us when we call.

Praying For Others

pray without ceasing (1 Thes. 5:17Is there anyone we are not supposed to pray for? I recently heard a sermon on prayer, and one of the points discussed was “Who should we pray for?” From reading James 5, the speaker came to the conclusion that we should pray for people when they ask for prayer and when they are righteous (though he admitted there were a few exceptions: Acts 28:8). When I read James 5, however, that’s not exactly what I see.

Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms. Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (James 5:13-16)

It is a sick person’s responsibility to ask for anointing, but there is nothing to hinder us from praying for one another unless specifically asked. In fact, there are numerous verses that give a clear instruction to pray for people who would not be asking for your prayers.

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. (Mat. 5:44-45)

Jesus Christ did this when He was hanging on the cross and asked forgiveness for His murderers (Luke 23:34). Stephen did much the same thing, praying “Lord, lay not this sin to their charge” as he was being stoned (Acts 7:60). I’d be tempted to say just from looking at these examples that we can, and should, pray for anyone who seems to need it. However, there are a very few verses that talk about not praying.

If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and He shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. (1 John 5:16)

I’m assuming this refers to a deliberate turning away from God as described in Hebrews 10:26-31. It’s probably a similar state to that of the nation of Israel when God told Jeremiah not to pray for His wicked people. (These are the only verses I’ve found that instruct someone not to pray. If you know of any others, please let me know.)

 Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up cry nor prayer for them, neither make intercession to me: for I will not hear thee. (Jer 7:16)

Therefore pray not thou for this people, neither lift up a cry or prayer for them: for I will not hear them in the time that they cry unto me for their trouble. (Jer. 11:14)

Then said the LORD unto me, Pray not for this people for their good. (Jer 14:11)

Choosing not to pray for someone definitely seems to be the exception rather than the rule, however. We are to pray for those who are friendly to us and for those who persecute and despise us. We pray when we’re asked for prayer, and we’re not hindered from praying when not asked. In fact, not praying can be a sin. Even after Israel sinned by asking for a king, the prophet Samuel said, “God forbid that I should sin against the LORD in ceasing to pray for you” (1 Sam. 12:23).

Christians are to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17) and Paul makes it clear that such prayer is not limited to praying for fellow Christians.

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

Now, this doesn’t mean we need to pray everyone’s hopes and dreams come true and they prosper in every endeavor. In some cases, particularly when praying for those who are in authority and “them which despitefully use you, and persecute you”, that could mean praying against ourselves or our fellow Christians. But I think we can pray that God’s will be done, that He would work things out for good and hold people back from doing evil, and that He would open a person’s eyes so they might turn from wickedness. That seems like the kind of thing to pray if you love (agape) someone. What do you think?