Thursdays With Spurgeon—Prayer Preparation And Prayer Expectation

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Prayer Preparation And Prayer Expectation

In the morning, Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait expectantly. (Psalm 5:3) 

     Do we not miss very much of the sweetness and efficacy of prayer by a want of careful meditation before it, and hopeful expectation after it? … We too often rush into the presence of God without forethought or humility. We are like people who present themselves before a king without a petition, and what wonder is it that we often miss the end of prayer? We should be careful to keep the stream of meditation always running, for this is the water to drive the mill of prayer. … Prayer without fervency is like hunting with a dead dog, and prayer without preparation is hawking with a blind falcon. Prayer is the work of the Holy Spirit, but He works by means. God made man, but He used the dust of the earth as a material. The Holy Ghost is the Author of prayer, but He employs the thoughts of a fervent soul as the gold with which to fashion the vessel. Let our prayers and praises be not the flashes of a hot and hasty brain but the steady burning of a well-kindled fire.

From Spurgeon And The Psalms

Sadly, I think we’ve become so accustomed to instant-everything in our society that it has seriously limited our prayer life. We walk into our prayer closet without an idea of what we’re going to pray, rattle off a few requests, say “Amen,” and walk out of our prayer closet exactly the same as we walked in. 

There is certainly help for us when we are so distressed—so at our wits’ end—that we don’t even know what to pray, but this is not what David is saying in Psalm 5. David is making it a regular practice to come into God’s presence with his requests at the ready, and he is walking away from his prayer time in eager expectation of God’s soon-to-be-realized answers. 

The Amplified Bible says, “I prepare a prayer…and watch and wait for You to speak to my heart.” 

I think it is a good idea for us to:

As Spurgeon said, “Let our prayers and praises be not the flashes of a hot and hasty brain but the steady burning of a well-kindled fire.”

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The Awesome Jesus

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

Comedian Brian Regan tells a story about people trying to one-up others with their stories. He explains that he has a “social fantasy” that he wishes he was one of the 12 people who have walked on the moon. How nice it must be, he says, that they can top any story!  

It’s one thing to read things, hear things, and even believe things, but it’s something completely different when you experience those things for yourself. 

The one with an experience…

  1. …is never at the mercy of the one with an argument 
  2. …gains the ear of others 
  3. …inspires others to desire a similar experience for themselves 

In the case of prayer, I feel bad for those who have heard that God no longer answers prayer, or no longer does the miraculous for His children. I have personally experienced God’s healing power as a direct result of someone praying for me. In fact, I’m alive today because of the prayers of my two grandmothers! 

When God answers prayer, it is awesome! 

The dictionary defines awesome with three main words: reverence, admiration, and fear. I think we can be a bit more specific with these definitions—

  • for saints: reverence 
  • for seekers: admiration 
  • for sinners: fear 

It is so important for Christians to personally experience the awesome deeds our God has done because we have prayed in the awesome name of Jesus! 

A.W. Tozer wrote, “There’s an awesomeness about God which is missing in our day altogether; there’s little sense of admiring awe in the Church of Christ these days.” 

I think this is because our prayers are too tame. 

The writer of Hebrews tells us about the powerful personal relationship we can have to Almighty God through Jesus Christ. His conclusion is, “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our ‘God is a consuming fire’” (Hebrews 12:28-29). 

When Christians pray in the awesome name of Jesus, and God does awesome things in response, the saints stand in reverent worship of Him. God told Moses, “The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the Lord, will do for you,” and David exclaimed, “You answer us with awesome and righteous deeds” (Exodus 34:10; Psalm 65:5). 

These awesome answers that we personally experience gain the attention and admiration of seekers. Again, David said, “Come and see what God has done, His awesome deeds for mankind!” (Psalm 66:5). 

But God showing up in His awesome strength will also create fear in sinners. The prophet Joel said, “The day of the Lord is an awesome, terrible thing” (Joel 2:11). The righteous judgment of God is awesome, but so is the love of God: “Lord, the God of heaven, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant of love with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Nehemiah 1:5). We need to use the awesomeness of God as a means to tell both sinners and seekers how they can know the awesome love of God.  

Remember that Tozer said “there’s little sense of admiring awe in the Church of Christ these days.” So I think we need to pray this, “God, forgive us for expectations of You that are too low.” 

I challenge you: 

  • Let’s pray bolder prayers this year to our awesome God. 
  • Let’s worship in reverence of His awesome deeds. 
  • Let’s create a sense of admiration in seekers which will lead them to reverence as saints. 
  • Let’s address the fear of sinners, and lead them to admiration as seekers, and to reverence as saints. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series on prayer called Awesome, you can find all of the messages by clicking here. 

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(Im)Patiently Waiting?

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on Apple or Spotify.

I waited patiently for the Lord … You are my God, do not delay (Psalm 40:1, 17). 

These bookend verses—the first and last verses of the 40th Psalm—are humorous to me. I wonder: Is David saying something like, “I’ve waited long enough, c’mon, God, let’s get moving”? 

Not exactly.

The first part of this psalm is a backward look that recounts all that God has already done for David: He heard me, He lifted me out of a pit, He set me on a firm place, He put a new song in my mouth (vv. 1-3). While the end of this psalm is David’s anticipation of what is still to come: the enemies of God turned back, and the saints of God rejoicing in His deliverance (vv. 11-17). 

The backward look in gratitude fuels the forward look in expectant hope.

In the meantime, in the middle of this psalm—between the backward look and the forward look—David is living as a testimony of God’s goodness and faithfulness:

  • many will see how God has delivered me and put their trust in Him 
  • I speak of Your deeds 
  • I listen to You and proclaim what You speak to me 
  • I do not hide Your righteousness 
  • I speak of Your faithfulness (vv. 3-16) 

This is a good lesson for us: Our continual praise and proclamation of God’s goodness is what connects our gratitude to our hope!

So in looking at these bookends verses again, I think that what David is saying is something like, “Father, I have so many good things already to say about how You have provided for me, so do not delay in moving again so that I have even more to share with others! Let many see Your hand on my life so that they too may learn to fear and trust You. Amen.” 

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Don’t Stop At Salvation

The Holy Spirit is vital in everything concerning a Christian’s life. Dr. Donald Stamps emphatically said it this way: 

“It is essential that believers recognize the importance of the Holy Spirit in God’s redemptive purpose. Many Christians have no idea what difference it would make if there were no Holy Spirit in this world. Without the Holy Spirit there would be no creation, no universe, no human race (Genesis 1:2; Job 33:4). Without the Holy Spirit there would be no Bible (2 Peter 1:21), no New Testament (John 14:26; 15:26-27; 1 Corinthians 2:10-14), no power to proclaim the gospel (Acts 1:8). Without the Holy Spirit there would be no faith, no new birth, no holiness, no Christians at all in the world.” 

Sometimes I think we have in our mind that the “old” in Old Testament somehow means outdated or no longer applicable to our lives, and the “new” in New Testament should be our sole focus. But Jesus affirmed again and again that all of the Scriptures—what we now refer to as the Old Testament—all point to Him. 

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit on that Pentecost Sunday was not something new to the New Testament Christians. He was always a part of a believer’s life. Even 1000 years before Christ’s public ministry, David knew the importance of the Holy Spirit in both salvation, and in living a consistently holy lifestyle (Psalm 51:10-12, 143:10). 

The role of the Holy Spirit in Christ’s public ministry was foretold in the Old Testament Scriptures and then fulfilled in the New Testament era (see Isaiah 11:1-2; Luke 3:21-22; Isaiah 61:1-2; Luke 4:18-21). 

If Jesus needed the baptism in the Spirit to empower Him, direct Him, and give Him success, how much more do we need this?! That’s why Jesus imparted the Holy Spirit to His followers at their moment of salvation, but then admonished them to eagerly expect the baptism in the Holy Spirit as well (John 20:22; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8). 

Quite simply Jesus is sayingDON’T STOP AT SALVATION

Jesus didn’t, the apostles didn’t, Paul didn’t, Apollos didn’t, the Ephesian Christians didn’t, I didn’t, and you shouldn’t either! 

Keep on going…

  1. Ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins
  2. Eagerly desire the baptism in the Spirit 
  3. Ask God to baptize you in His Spirit
  4. Expect that He will answer that prayer (Acts 2:38; Isaiah 44:3; John 7:37-39; Luke 11:13; Mark 11:24)

Join me again this Sunday as we continue to learn what it means for Christians today to be Pentecostal. 

If you missed any of the messages in this series, you can access the full list of messages by clicking here.

When Your Walking Is Your Praying

Have you ever been in the right place at the right time to experience something wonderful? Maybe you got to meet someone important, or you got the job, or you got the money, or you got to ride in that fancy car. 

Some will call you “lucky” or say you “caught a break,” but both of those statements imply that something unexpected happened to you. 

Is it still “lucky” to be in the right place at the right time if you knew ahead of time that it was coming? For praying Christians, to be in the right place at the right time when we are expecting God to provide is called “an answer to prayer.” 

David prayed, “In the morning, Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait expectantly” (Psalm 5:3). The Aramaic word for prayer means “to set a trap.” If we pray, and we live in expectation, then it isn’t luck when we’re in the right place at the right time, but it’s a “trap” that caught the answer to our prayer. 

Our daily walking can be our daily praying, as long as we’re walking in faith in the direction God pointed us. 

One man who—literally!—walked this principle out was Elisha.

Before we look at Elisha’s expectant, prayerful walking, let’s look at his prayer request—

When they reached the other side, Elijah said to Elisha, “What can I do for you before I’m taken from you? Ask anything.” Elisha said, “Your life repeated in my life. I want to be a holy man just like you (2 Kings 2:9 MSG).

Elisha was essentially asking to be like Elijah’s firstborn son, to be his spiritual heir. This was the original promise God gave when He told Elijah to anoint Elisha as his successor (1 Kings 19:16). From that point onward, Elisha steadily walked in expectation of God answering this prayer. 

Elisha wouldn’t stay in a place of military victory, or in a significantly spiritual place, or even in a place surrounded by godly leaders. Elisha wouldn’t be held back by a lucrative family business, or the warning words of friends or his spiritual mentor, or even the seemingly uncrossable Jordan River. He kept on walking (see 2 Kings 2:1-15).

He kept on walking.

He kept on walking until “suddenly” God showed up and answered his prayer. 

But was it really “suddenly”? Elisha knew it was coming. He believed what God had promised. He clung to it even when Elijah told him he had asked “a difficult thing.” Elisha kept on walking until he was in the right place at the right time to receive all that God had planned. 

If you have prayed in faith, start walking. Settling anywhere else is robbing yourself of a blessing and robbing God of glory. 

Just keep walking! And let your walking be your praying. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t settle. Don’t stop eagerly expecting that the next step you took could be the “suddenly” you’ve been waiting for. Just keep walking!

Join me this Sunday as we learn a valuable lesson from another bold pray-er from the Bible. 

No Asterisks

This past Christmas I was quite surprised to receive a package in the mail. It was something I ordered as a Christmas gift for my wife. 

Sort of. 

It was actually half of what I thought I ordered. I went back online and discovered some “fine print” that I hadn’t really noticed earlier. 

You’ve probably experienced that too—asterisksfine print … footnotes … hidden fees … “limits and exclusions may apply” are all so frustrating!

Unfortunately, we get so used to these things that we begin to—consciously or subconsciously—plug them into places where they don’t actually belong. So even when Jesus Himself says something that sounds wonderful like, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20), we want to insert an asterisk. 

Or when He says, “And I will do whatever you ask in My name so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask Me for anything in My name, and I will do it” (John 14:13-14), we think we’re supposed to ask, “What’s the catch?” 

Christians are inserting asterisks where they don’t belong and, as a result, are praying timid prayers. 

Why do we pray this way? Perhaps we are…

  1. …fearful of being too bold. But in telling us how to pray, Jesus says God rewards our bold “shameless persistence” in prayer. 

I tell you, although he will not get up and supply him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his shameless persistence and insistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs. So I say to you, ask and keep on asking and it shall be given you; seek and keep on seeking and you shall find; knock and keep on knocking and the door shall be opened to you. (Luke 11:8-9 AMP) 

  1. …unsure that God hears us, cares for us, or even wants to answer us. But the Bible is quite clear that all of these things are true: He hears us, cares for us, and does want to give us what He has promised (1 John 5:14-15; Romans 8:32; Romans 4:20-21).  
  1. …ignorant of what/how to pray. T.M. Moore reminds us, “God has given us three great helps to assist us in our prayers. His Spirit groans for us; His Word guides us; and His Son governs and intercedes for us.” 
  1. …not looking for God’s answer. David said that after praying, he expectantly watched for God’s answer (Psalm 5:3). Indeed, the Aramaic word for prayer means “to set a trap.” 

“He is the God of limitless resources—the only limit comes from us. Our requests, our thoughts, and our prayers are too small, and our expectations are too low. God is trying to raise our vision to a higher level, call us to have greater expectations, and thereby bring us to greater appropriation. Shall we continue living in a way that mocks His will and denies His Word?” —A.B. Simpson 

Why are you hesitating to ask God for even a tiny amount when such vast resources are available? What would happen if you started to pray more boldly? What if you began to make mountain-moving requests? I dare you to try! 

Stop looking for the asterisks and start taking God at His word!

Join me next week as we continue our series on Boldly Praying, looking at some bold pray-ers in the Bible.

Poetry Saturday—Exhortation To Prayer

William CowperWhat various hindrances we meet
In coming to a mercy-seat!
Yet who that knows the worth of prayer,
But wishes to be often there?

Prayer makes the darken’d cloud withdraw,
Prayer climbs the ladder Jacob saw,
Gives exercise to faith and love,
Brings every blessing from above.

Restraining prayer, we cease to fight,
Prayer makes the Christian’s armor bright;
And satan trembles when he sees
The weakest saint upon his knees.

While Moses stood with arms spread wide,
Success was found on Israel’s side;
But when through weariness they fail’d,
That moment Amalek prevail’d.

Have you no words? Ah! think again,
Words flow apace when you complain,
And fill your fellow-creature’s ear
With the sad tale of all your care.

Were half the breath thus vainly spent
To Heaven in supplication sent,
Your cheerful song would oftener be,
“Hear what the Lord has done for me.” —William Cowper


Saturday In The Psalms—In Over My Head!

Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck! (Psalm 69)

Not just up to David’s neck, but he felt like he was in over his head! Ever been there? You feel like…

  • …there’s no solid ground to stand on
  • …you’re stuck in deep muck
  • …the floodwaters are rising fast

David cried himself dry and hoarse because of the troubles ganging up on him!

One of David’s motivations in asking God for help was not just to alleviate his own suffering, but to not be a burden to other God-followers—“Let not those who wait for You, O Lord God of hosts, be ashamed because of me; let not those who seek You be confounded because of me, O God of Israel.”

So David made his prayer to God, believing that God would completely vindicate and rescue him. And as he prayed, he praised—“Let Your salvation, O God, set me up on high. I will praise the name of God with a song, and I will magnify Him with thanksgiving.”

When you’re in over your head, there’s nowhere else to look but up! 

Our prayer: Holy Spirit, when I feel like I’m in over my head, may You remind me to lift up my prayer and my praise to my Savior. Don’t let other God-followers be ashamed because of me, but let my deliverance be the reason they continue to look expectantly to You!

No Limits (book review)

I always get excited when I get to read a John Maxwell book because I know right upfront that I’m going to be getting life-changing insights. As usual, No Limits lived up to my expectations!

The premise of this book is simple: Most of our limitations are self-imposed, but if we could see a way to blow the cap off those limitations there is no limit to the level of success we can achieve.

The book is built around John Maxwell’s capacity challenge, which says, “If you grow in your awareness, develop your abilities, and make the right choices, you can reach your capacity. In other words: Awareness + Ability + Choices = Capacity.”

No Limits is built around the three components in this capacity equation. First, you will learn how to become aware of what may be limiting you; then, you will learn how you have the ability to develop the capacities that you already have; and finally, you will learn how to make the daily choices that will maximize your capacity.

The book contains a link to a “Capacity Quiz,” which is a great help to identify the areas in which you especially need growth. It’s a good idea to take this quiz before diving into the material in the book so that you can pay special attention to the weakest areas as you are reading.

John Maxwell continues to stretch and mentor me in leadership growth like few other people have. I believe he will do the same thing for you, too, if you are willing to roll up your sleeves and go to work on blowing the cap off all your limits!

I am a Center Street book reviewer.

What If We Had Higher Expectations?

Humans are hardwired by God to be in relationship with Him and with others.

  1. God is a Triune God so each part of the Godhead is in relationship with the other parts—John tells us in his epistle that God is love, meaning there is both a Lover and a Beloved.
  2. We are created in God’s image—we are made to love and be loved.
  3. God affirmed our need for relationships with others—see Genesis 2:18.
  4. Relationships with others give us a return on investment, help in trouble, encouragement in dark times, and protection from attack—see Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.
  5. Christians being in healthy relationships with others is a testimony to just how powerful God’s love is.

Sadly, Brennan Manning pointed out that Christians “have come a long sad journey from the first century, when pagans exclaimed with awe and wonder, ‘See how these Christians love one another!’”

When I read this, I don’t want to throw in the towel, but I want to reclaim this awe and wonder! 

One of the things that will quickly kill relationships is having low expectations for the other person or for the relationship itself. This can be counteracted by having higher expectations for other people and for our relationships with them.

John Maxwell noted, “People rise or fall to meet our level of expectations for them. If you express skepticism and doubt in others, they’ll return your lack of confidence with mediocrity. But if you believe in them and expect them to do well, they’ll wear themselves out trying to do their best.”

Consider the high expectations that God had for a relationship with us. If He had low expectations, one of the best-known verses in the Bible would be, “God thought a few people in the world had something worth saving, so He sent a handful of angels to tell us His story.”

Instead, the verse tells us: God so loved the entire world that He sent the very best that He had—He sent His One and Only Son!

  • Jesus died for us when we were unworthy of His love
  • Jesus gave us all His authority to represent Him in the world
  • Jesus empowered us with His Holy Spirit to be His witnesses
  • Jesus told us that our love for others would be a blazing sign to that we were His

Since God has this high expectation for us … what would happen if we had the same high expectations for everyone with whom we came into contact? What would happen if we believed the best for everybody, and then gave all that we could to bring the best out of them? I think that once again people would exclaim with awe and wonder,

“See how these Christians love one another!”

We will be talking more about Relationship Builders & Killers this Sunday and I would love if you could join me!

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