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No Pointless Prayers

Mar 18, 2017

W-1667

Do you ever think, “That is a pointless prayer. Nothing’s going to change in that situation, so why bother praying about it”? I can certainly relate to that feeling of praying for something or someone and afterwards feeling like it’s not going to make any difference. But recently, I read an article by Marcus Warner of Deeper Life Ministries entitled, “No Pointless Prayers,” and I eagerly read it because the title resonated with me. Is it true there are no pointless prayers?

In his article, No Pointless Prayers, Marcus talks about a time recently when he thought of some friends—a couple—who were not yet believers and had not yet shown much inclination to learn about Christianity, and as he was reminded of them, he said a quick prayer that they would come to saving faith. Immediately afterwards an inner voice said to him, That was a pointless prayer. He recognized that this thought had come from the enemy, and later journaled about that moment, writing from God’s perspective. He wrote:

I heard your prayers. They were not pointless. The incense comes before the throne of grace—a sweet smelling, wonderful aroma of love and worship in a world that is broken and malfunctioning. There are no pointless prayers.

Marcus goes on to say, “This feels true to me. Granted, some praying is more effective than others, but it is better to pray badly than not to pray at all. It is better to bring our requests before the throne and let the Spirit do what He does to bring them before the Father as part of the rare, exquisite aroma that comes from the incense of our prayers.”

In this article, Marcus points out the story of Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth. They were childless and Elizabeth was long past child-bearing age. Zechariah, who was a priest, had many times prayed for a son. No doubt it felt like a pointless prayer at this point in their lives. But as he was praying before the altar of incense, he encountered an angel who told him his prayers had been answered. And indeed, in a short time, Elizabeth gave birth to John the Baptist.

Marcus writes, “Zechariah had offered many ‘pointless’ prayers for his wife, Elizabeth. Realistically, she was never going to have a child—not now, not at her age. But it turns out, there are no throwaway prayers. God had heard them, and God was about to act.”

“How about you? Have you given up praying for someone or something because the prayers have begun to feel pointless? You never know,” as Marcus says, “An angel may already be on the way.”

This short article touched my soul as I realized how often I pray what feel like pointless prayers, but I believe, as the article said, that it is better to pray badly than not to pray at all. I want to point out what the Bible says about praying different kinds of prayers, and I hope it will encourage you to remember that there are no pointless prayers.  Furthermore, you can pray about anything at any time; God welcomes your prayers. And, while it’s better to pray badly than not to pray at all, it’s better to pray effectively than to pray badly. Let’s see what kinds of prayers we are instructed to pray.

Ephesians 6:18 says, “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” Here are the key points about prayer that we learn from this verse:

  • Pray in the Spirit

What does it mean to pray in the Spirit? Note that the word translated “in” can mean “in,” “with,” or “by means of.” It simply points out that we need the Holy Spirit to help us with our prayers. Romans 8:26 says, In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.” Praying in the Spirit does not refer to the words we are saying. Rather, it refers to how we are praying. Praying in the Spirit is praying according to the Spirit’s leading. It is praying for things the Spirit leads us to pray for and it is trusting the Spirit to pray for us.

  • On all occasions

This simply means it is appropriate to pray about every occasion in our lives. From the smallest incidents to the traumatic occurrences, pray on all occasions. My friend, Fran, first taught me this truth by the way she prays. From asking God to help her find a good parking spot, to praying for the company her husband worked for, to praying for the salvation of her father before he died—she prays on all occasions.

I remember one specific time when she lost the diamond in her wedding ring. It was loose and just fell out. She was aware it was loose, but had neglected to go to a jeweler to have it tightened. It was on her list of things to do—you know how that is—but she just hadn’t gotten around to doing it. So, in a sense you could say it was her fault that she had lost her diamond. But that didn’t mean she couldn’t pray about it, which she did. She also began a desperate search for her diamond.

A couple of days later, she decided to search her car. Now, how likely would it be that a small diamond could be found in a car—even if indeed that was where it was? But she prayed that God would help her find that diamond, promising not to be so careless again, and you guessed it—tucked in one of the car seats, there it was! Fran prays on all occasions about everything, even when it seems pointless.

  • With all kinds of prayers and requests

 In writing to Timothy, Paul gives a further explanation of the different kinds of prayers. He says in I Timothy 2:1, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people…”

 (I Timothy 2:1). The Bible talks about the prayer of faith in James 5, praying for the sick, for example. It also gives examples of corporate prayer, where the disciples “all joined together constantly in prayer,” in Acts 1:14.

God invites us to petition him—to make our requests known to him. Jesus said you have not because you ask not. Intercession is praying for others, and this is certainly one of the most important kinds of prayer we should pray. How much of your prayer time is spent on behalf of others? I think about it this way: pray for all the others in your life for whom you should pray, and if you don’t have time to pray for yourself, just lift it up to God—who knows all your needs—and ask him to meet all your needs as he has promised to do.

Spending time thanking God for all his goodness and blessings should be a key part of our prayers. Paul admonished the Philippian believers to make their requests known to God with thanksgiving. I find it is more helpful to spend more time thanking God for all he’s done for me than it is to just present a laundry list of all I want him to do. Our requests should be coupled with thanksgiving.

Then there is this succinct instruction about prayer we find in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18: “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Prayer is simply conversation with God, and that should be an on-going conversation—where at any time in any part of the day, we are so connected with God that we keep the conversation going.

I was thinking of the ways we stay connected now with the people in our lives. Because of all the technological advances and gadgets that we have, we truly can keep a conversation going just about all the time, can’t we? We text many times throughout the day; we phone and email; there’s Facebook and Twitter and so many other ways to stay connected with each other. Don’t you think we should stay connected with God throughout our entire day at least as much as we do with our loved ones and friends?

I have a long-time friend who is a successful lawyer, and I know she incorporates prayer all through her day. I asked her how she keeps this continual conversation going with God in the midst of a busy day, and how that affects her life. Here is how she replied:

I have many goals every day as I work—like providing valuable legal advice, articulately presenting a client’s position, clearly and accurately drafting necessary documents—but there is no more important goal that I have in my work with clients and with coworkers than to show the love of Jesus to them in every interaction. I try to pray before every call, every meeting, and even as I am walking through the halls of my office, that I will show Jesus’ love. I text my prayer partners before important calls and meetings to pray that I will show Jesus’ love to everyone. It changes everything about how I see people and how I treat them. It helps me focus on the most important thing—the love of Jesus. And no matter what the outcome is of the call/meeting/interaction, whether I performed well or whether I delivered the value that I wanted to deliver to our client, if I was able to share just a tiny bit of the love that Jesus has given me, then I consider it a success and not a failure because love never fails.

 Showing the love of Jesus has become a family affair for my husband who works with nonprofit organizations and for my daughter who works with a grocery store. We pray every day for and with each other that in all of our work and in all of our lives, we will show the love of Jesus to everyone we meet. These prayers continue to change everything about how we work and live, and bring us many moments of peace and joy.

I am one of her prayer partners and I love the way she brings a conversation with God into everything she does. She prays on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and, as we read in James 5, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” When you have been born from above and the righteousness of Jesus has been given to you, then you can claim this promise: your prayers are powerful and effective because you have the righteousness of Christ.

As I noted, it is better to pray a bad prayer than not to pray at all because there are no pointless prayers. But praying in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers—praying as Jesus taught us to pray in what we call the Lord’s Prayer—this is even more powerful praying.

I hope you will seriously take a look at your own prayer life, as I am doing as well, and you’ll make a commitment to pray more and more about everything, and to pray more effectively with all kinds of prayers.

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The Snooze Alarm Syndrome

Mar 10, 2017

PROGRAM D-7790

I have always struggled with being consistently disciplined, and therefore I’ve had many hard lessons to learn in this area. But I feel that qualifies me to help others who are similarly disciplined-challenged, so that we can find ways to impose needed discipline in our lives.

And we do this, not just so we will be more successful, but far more importantly, so that we will be good stewards of the time and resources that God has entrusted to us. We will give an account to him for our discipline or lack of it.

Another important daily discipline is to stay on task and not flit from one thing to another. I mention this one because it is particularly difficult for me. I don’t sit still easily. So, I set goals for myself that keep me on task. For example, when I have to get some writing done, I set a goal for how much I must get done before I can take a break or do something else. Setting small goals all day long really helps me stay on task, and that saves so much time.

These are just some of the many everyday disciplines that we need to truly impose in our lives. The fruits of discipline and the blessings that await you when you learn to be disciplined are tremendous. Believe me, I’ve had to learn it in many areas and to this day I have to work at practicing what I preach. Discipline doesn’t come easy for me, but I’ve learned that it makes all the difference in my productivity, my sense of accomplishment, and my enjoyment of life.

I want to really encourage you to get serious about putting needed discipline in your everyday life. It is a gift to give yourself; I promise you it is worth the trouble. And the most important daily discipline is to spend set-apart quiet time to meditate on God’s Word and pray. No matter how busy you are, you should never be too busy to make time for communication with the Lord.

So the next time you hit that snooze alarm button, just remember how important it is to be a disciplined person, pray that God will give you the power to do what you know you ought to do, and little by little you will build important disciplines into your life. You will never regret being a disciplined person—that I can promise you. The lack of discipline leads to many regrets.

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The Snooze Alarm Syndrome

Mar 8, 2017

PROGRAM D-7788

I’m focusing on some ideas for those who have the drive but lack the discipline. If you ask me, discipline is always a pain in the neck, so please don’t expect to like it. But remember what Solomon tells us in Proverbs about discipline: It is the way to life and understanding and honor. So, acquiring needed daily disciplines is a very smart and rewarding thing for you to do.

We were looking at the discipline of getting up early. Here are some practical tricks to play on yourself to help you get up early:

  1. Put the alarm clock or radio out of arm’s reach from your bed, so that you are forced to get up in order to turn it off.
  2. Buy an alarm clock with the loudest, most obnoxious alarm you can find.
  3. For every five minutes late you get up, impose punishment on yourself. For example,
  4. if you are five minutes late getting up, no jelly or jam on your toast
  5. if you are ten minutes late getting up, no toast
  6. if you are fifteen minutes late getting up, no cream or sugar in your coffee. If you don’t take cream or sugar, buy a brand of coffee you don’t like, and make yourself drink that coffee.
  7. Make yourself accountable to someone that you will see early in your day—your mate, a coworker, a friend. Give that person permission to ask you “What time did you get up today?” Then, give a very honest reply with NO EXCUSES!
  8. Start a chart or write on your daily calendar what time you get up each day.
  9. When you have reached your desired get-up-early goal and stuck to it for seven straight days, reward yourself. Suggested rewards:
  • One day off for good behavior!
  • A special food treat that you don’t normally allow yourself to have

Take it from a person who still struggles with this discipline, but who has practiced it long enough to realize the benefits. This is one of the best gifts you’ll ever give yourself. If you will stop using the “I’m not a morning person” excuse, and tell yourself, “I will learn to be a morning person,” you have some great things to look forward to. Who knows—you may come to cherish those early morning hours, that peaceful part of your day, before the chaos begins.

This much I can assure you—if you’ve never acquired this discipline of getting up as early as you need to, when you start to do it, you are going to be amazed at how much more you will accomplish in your day. You will love the fruit of this getting up early discipline.

 

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The Snooze Alarm Syndrome

Mar 7, 2017

PROGRAM D-7787

The “D” word—discipline—I know, it’s not your favorite topic; mine either. But you know, without daily disciplines in our lives, we are headed for trouble.

Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, warned us of this in the Proverbs. He said:

. . . fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Proverbs 1:7b).

“. . . the corrections of discipline are the way to life” (Proverbs 6:23b).

He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored” (Proverbs 13:18).

Solomon tells us that a person who acquires a disciplined life:

  • has chosen the road to life
  • has understanding
  • is honored.

Do you want to be more disciplined? Are you willing to acquire it? Let’s look at those daily disciplines that we need to acquire:

The Discipline of Getting Up Early

“I’m not a morning person!” How many times have you said that? It’s one of the great clichés of our culture, and we have developed it into a one-sentence excuse that is seemingly acceptable justification for all sorts of usually unacceptable behavior. It’s as though we could take a blood test and discover something in our genes that causes this condition. “Aha,” the doctor says, looking at the results of your blood test, “I see that your cholesterol is a little high, and you are a little anemic—and, oh my, you’re not a morning person!”

I ask you, do you know anyone who is a morning person? Most of us, left to our own undisciplined nature, would not be morning people. The morning people you know are those who “just do it” because it makes the day so much easier and more productive.

Here are ten good reasons to get up early:

  1. You’ll get a lot more accomplished as an early-riser.
  2. You’ll be in a better mood all day.
  3. You’ll have less stress because you didn’t start your day in a hectic rush.
  4. You’ll be on-time or—better still—early at your job, and your boss will love you for that.
  5. You’ll have a leg-up on the competition.
  6. Your mind has its most energy and creativity immediately after rest, so you’ll have more good ideas and plans.
  7. Your relationships will improve because you will have more patience to deal with people.
  8. You can find some true quiet time in the morning hours, for meditation, communication with God, and becoming centered for the day ahead.
  9. You can beat some of the traffic and avoid the worst of the traffic jams.
  10. You’ll look better because you’ll have needed time for important grooming activities and clothes preparation!

The next question you may ask is, What is early? One person’s early is another person’s late. Who defines early, after all? Basically you have to figure out how much time you need in the morning in order to get off without being in panic mode, and that will tell you when you need to get up. For me I need to get up two to three hours before I leave the house in order to do what I need and want to do in those morning hours. It may be different with you, but believe me, getting up early is a great investment that will pay huge dividends.

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The Snooze Alarm Syndrome

Mar 6, 2017

PROGRAM D-7786

Do you have a snooze alarm feature on your clock? Most of us do, don’t we? It’s a great feature to help us get up and get going.

I think that the snooze alarm feature epitomizes the challenge most of us face on a daily basis—trying to put necessary disciplines into our lives so that we can accomplish what we are supposed to accomplish. We want to do the things we need to do, but it takes discipline, which comes hard for most of us.

To me, discipline is a chore, a major chore, and if I could find some way to get through life without it, accomplishing what I want to accomplish, believe me, I would. Believe me, I’ve tried!

Discipline is not fun. But here’s what it is: Discipline is necessary. It’s necessary, that is, if you truly want to accomplish something worthwhile in your life and reach your objectives. It’s necessary if you want to turn your wishes into goals, your visions into realities, your dreams into accomplishments.

I can imagine that talking about being disciplined is not your favorite topic. And maybe right now you’re about ready to stop reading this devotional. But before you do, let me just make one point that is so very critical:

Lack of discipline is self-inflicted suffering!

It has begun to dawn on me that since I would not stand in front of a brick wall and continually bang my head on it because I don’t like headaches, it is incredibly foolish for me to figuratively keep banging my head against the wall of lack of discipline. I suffer greatly when discipline is lax in my life.

There’s a whole book in the Bible written to teach us the importance of a disciplined life. In the first three verses of Proverbs, Solomon tells us that he wrote them so that we could attain wisdom and discipline and acquire a disciplined and prudent life. Right off that encourages me, because it says that discipline didn’t come naturally for Solomon either. It had to be attained and acquired.

Are you working at acquiring needed disciplines in your life? Or are you just going along from day to day, tossed to and fro because of lack of discipline?

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No Pointless Prayers

Mar 3, 2017

PROGRAM D-7785

I’ve been talking about prayer—specifically that there are no pointless prayers. As mentioned above, it is better to pray a bad prayer than not to pray at all, because there are no pointless prayers. But praying in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers—praying as Jesus taught us to pray in what we call the Lord’s Prayer—this is even more powerful praying.

So, even though it is better to pray a bad prayer than not to pray at all, it is better still to pray effectively. How do we make sure our prayers are as powerful and effective as they can be? Jesus gave us a format for prayer, which we call The Lord’s Prayer but it really is The Disciple’s Prayer, and if you pray like Jesus taught you to, then I believe it will be more effective and powerful.

Years ago I realized that my prayer time was rather monotonous, repetitive and not very exciting. It was more of a duty than a privilege. So, I took The Lord’s Prayer as my guide and I began a prayer journal, where I organized my prayer time based on how Jesus taught us to pray. That absolutely revolutionized my prayer life. It gave structure and meaning to what had been rather generalized prayers, and I began to keep a record of answers to prayer. Now, many years later, I have pages and pages of answered prayer—many I would have forgotten had I not made a record.

And I began to pray Scripture into my life. That has truly transformed my prayer time and me. For example, I pray Romans 12:1-2 regularly, committing my body to him as a living sacrifice for that day, asking that I will not be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of mind, and in that way I can prove God’s will for my life for that day. I promise you, that is effective, powerful praying.

Eventually I put my prayer journal idea into print, and many people have told me that it has been very helpful to them as well. If you’re struggling with having a meaningful prayer life, you might find a prayer journal helpful.

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