Personalizing The Prayers Of The Bible

Much of the Bible is given to us in a conversational format, and many of those conversations are between humans and God.

My desire is that we wouldn’t just read through the Bible, but we would learn to pray through the Bible. The Scripture is full of prayers people have already prayed. We have the benefit of seeing the setting that led to the prayer, the prayer itself, and then the outcome of the prayer. 

The Holy Spirit can help us make each prayer in the Bible our own prayer. They can become personalized to the situations we face. 

In this 5-minute video, I demonstrate how I turned Psalm 27 into a prayer. Below the video is the text of this psalm so you can see how I began the prayer. After watching this video, I encourage you to begin to use God’s Word as a launching point for your prayers for your situations. 

The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid?

When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall.

Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.

One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple.

For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.

Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me; at His sacred tent I will sacrifice with shouts of joy; I will sing and make music to the Lord.

Hear my voice when I call, Lord; be merciful to me and answer me.

My heart says of You, “Seek His face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek.

Do not hide Your face from me, do not turn Your servant away in anger; You have been my helper. Do not reject me or forsake me, God my Savior.

Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.

Teach me Your way, Lord; lead me in a straight path because of my oppressors.

Do not turn me over to the desire of my foes, for false witnesses rise up against me, spouting malicious accusations.

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.

Impossible To Empowered

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus outlined a “game plan” for His followers. He showed us how to correctly apply the Scripture to our daily lives with this repeated pattern: “You have heard it said [God’s Word], but I tell you [real-life application].”  Smack-dab in the middle of this sermon Jesus drops this on us, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). 

You might say, “But ‘perfect’ doesn’t really mean perfect, does it?” 

Actually, it does. The Greek word telios means the end goal of being complete in various applications of labor, growth, mental and moral character. In other words: complete in body, soul, mind, spirit—just like Jesus. 

Think about it: Jesus never misspoke, He never waited too long to act, He never acted too quickly, He never overstepped God’s boundaries, He never needed to apologize. 

Again, you might push back with, “Yes, but He is Jesus. He is God!” 

You are absolutely correct, but—miracle of miracles!—Jesus chose not to use His deity while He was on earth (Hebrews 2:17; Philippians 2:6-7). He lived a perfect life as a human, not playing His “God card,” to show us that it was possible. Jesus demonstrated that He needed to rely on the Holy Spirit (Luke 3:21-22, 4:1, 14; John 5:19-20, 12:49-50). 

This is what Jesus wants for us as well, which is why He told His disciples to wait for the empowerment that came with the baptism in the Holy Spirit. On our own, perfection is impossible. But when we baptized in the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to live perfectly. 

Remember the definition I gave for perfect (telios): complete in body, soul, mind, spirit. That’s exactly how Dr. Luke described Jesus, and it’s also how Jesus described our perfect love of God (Luke 2:52, 10:27). 

On our own: this is impossible. But with the baptism in the Holy Spirit: we are empowered for perfection. 

Don’t stop at salvation—press on to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. If Jesus was so reliant on the Holy Spirit, what would make us think we could live with anything less?! 

If you missed any of the other posts in this series, you can find them all listed here. 

Skilled In Scripture

Last week I shared how in a span of a month and a half Peter went from a man who crumbled before a little servant girl, to one who boldly stood up for Jesus before a huge crowd. Don’t you think that some of the other disciples that had spent the previous 3-plus years with Peter were thinking, “Who is this guy?! He’s preaching this amazing sermon that he didn’t even prepare for ahead of time!” 

That’s what the Holy Spirit does for us: He opens up God’s Word like we’ve never seen it before! It wasn’t just for Peter, or the original 12 disciples, or the first-century Church. This is still available to you and me today!  

Please note that it’s not just a relationship with Jesus that opens up the Scriptures to us. No one spent more time in the presence of Jesus than His disciples. And yet even after Jesus explicitly shared truth with them, we read, “His disciples didn’t understand at the time that this was a fulfillment of prophecy. But after Jesus entered into His glory, they remembered what had happened and realized that these things had been written about Him” (John 12:16). 

Notice those words “after…they remembered…and realized.” 

After what? After they were baptized in the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (see Acts 2:1-16). In every setting after that we see their new understanding and correct application of the Scriptures (check out Acts 2:16, 25, 34; 2:42; 4:25-26; 8:35; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12; 2 Peter 1:21).

This is still available to you and me today! Jesus told us that He had more to say to us, and that’s why the Holy Spirit would come. The same Holy Spirit that inspired the Word of God is available today to illuminate it to us! 

R.T. Kendall made this observation about the teachings of Jesus, “[His teachings] cannot be truly understood until you see that it is our Lord’s doctrine of the Holy Spirit. It means we must embrace His interpretation of the Law and how it is fulfilled in us.” 

This is what God foretold through Ezekiel—I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws… (Ezekiel 11:19-20). In other words, God is saying, “When the Holy Spirit is in you, you will know how to apply My laws to your every-day life. You will become skilled in the correct and timely biblical application.”  

ALL Scripture is for ALL servants of God. ALL Scripture is applicable to ALL the circumstances we will ever face in life. But we need the illumination of the Holy Spirit in order to make the connection from the written Word to the real-life application. 

So don’t stop at salvation—press on to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. 

If you have missed any of the other lessons in this series, you may access them by clicking here. 

Controlled By The Holy Spirit

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-21) 

Jesus wanted His followers to be His missionaries throughout the world, but not until they were empowered with the baptism of the Holy Spirit. The new Testament writers elaborate on concepts that boil down to a Christian being controlled by the Spirit. What does that entail? I think these words from J. Oswald Sanders are well worth consideration—

“What does this apostolic injunction in Ephesians 5:18 mean? It is not an invitation to realize a privilege but a command to fulfill an obligation. … The clear teaching of Scripture is that we are filled with the Spirit when our human spirit is mastered and controlled by the Holy Spirit. The idea behind the command ‘be filled with the Spirit’ is not so much that of an empty vessel passively waiting for something to be poured into it, as water into a glass [here is a 3-minute video where I illustrate this idea]. It is rather the concept of a human personality voluntarily surrendered to the domination the Holy Spirit. … The Spirit’s control is not automatic but voluntarily and constantly conceded. 

“The fullness of the Spirit does not obliterate personality, as does hypnotism. In fact, the person who is filled with the Spirit only then realizes and discovers his true personality. It is not obliterated but released. We will never know the possibility of our redeemed personality until we definitely yield ourselves in full and undeserved surrender to His control. … 

“Paul’s personality was not obliterated by [Christ’s] indwelling. ‘I live,’ he said, ‘yet not I, but Christ liveth in me.’ He did not become any the less Paul because he was indwelt by Christ. Indeed, he became more and more the Paul God intended him to be; the ideal Paul who was a chosen vessel to the Lord. We need not fear the fullest surrender to Christ, for He enhances and ennobles personality. He imports qualities which are absent and brings into activity powers and possibility which were latent. He became a different Paul, but a greater and better Paul. Apart from the indwelling and mastery of Christ, the world would probably have heard little of him. Instead his influence has been one of the dominating features of the last two millennia.” —J. Oswald Sanders, in Cultivation of Christian Character (emphasis mine) 

If you would like to review some of the thoughts I have already shared in this current series, please click here and scroll down to the list of posts listed on that page.

Stand-Up Christians

“I’ve searched all the parks in all the cities and found no statues of committees.” —G.K. Chesterton 

It’s true that no statues have been erected to committees or groups, but groups of people have been allowed to stand up because just one strong leader stood up for them. And history has shown that never has been a greater servant leader—lifting and rescuing more people than we can count—than Jesus of Nazareth. 

Before He ascended back to heaven Jesus said to His followers, “As the Father has sent Me, I am sending you” (John 20:21). He has called us to stand up as His representatives in the world. Jesus didn’t send His followers out under their own power, but He directed them to first be empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:7-8). 

Last week I shared how Hannah’s persistence in prayer led to a revival in Israel. Hannah’s physical barrenness was a picture of Israel’s spiritual barrenness. When Hannah prayed, we read a key phrase: Hannah stood up (1 Samuel 1:9). She was really saying, “God do something IN me that will turn people to You!” 

And God literally did something IN her: she became pregnant, and the son that came from her was the spiritual leader Israel needed. 

New Testament Christians can have a new life conceived IN them when they are baptized IN the Holy Spirit. They can then spiritually give birth to a revival, just as surely as Hannah’s son Samuel led a revival in Israel! Being baptized IN the Holy Spirit empowers us to be stand-up Christians.  

Consider the disciple Peter. On the night Jesus was arrested, Peter couldn’t stand up for Jesus, even though it was just two little servant girls who confronted him. Then Pentecost Sunday came, Peter was baptized IN the Holy Spirit, and this Spirit-empowered man now became a stand-up Christian (Matthew 26:69-72; Acts 2:1-4, 14). 

As Aimee Semple McPherson noted, “The Holy Spirit, when He endues you with power, puts a real ‘stand up for Jesus spirit’ within you, and removes your cowardice.” 

Peter not only stood up before a questioning crowd, he stood up to the same religious leaders who had Jesus crucified, and he stood up for the Gentiles who became Christians (Acts 4:5-10; 15:6-11).

In Peter’s first letter to the Church, he explained how Spirit-baptized Christians could…

  • stand up joyfully in trials (1:6-9; 4:7, 12-19) 
  • stand up for holiness in a wicked culture (1:13-16; 2:11-12)
  • stand up to be able to submit to and serve those in civic government positions (2:13-17)
  • stand up to serve your employer (2:18)
  • stand up like Jesus did to the people who revile and slander you (2:19-25)
  • stand up for your spouse’s salvation (3:1-7) 
  • stand up for your Church family (3:8-12) 
  • stand up to fear (3:13-14) 
  • stand up to give testimony to your faith in Jesus (3:15-17)
  • stand up to live counter-culturally (4:1-6)
  • stand up for the shepherds and the sheep in God’s family (5:1-5)
  • stand up to anxiety (5:6-7)
  • stand up against the devil’s growling (5:8-11) 
  • stand up for Jesus until the very end of life or until Jesus returns (5:12-14) 

All of this from a man who couldn’t stand up to a little servant girl! 

That’s why I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it—Don’t stop at salvation! There is SO MUCH MORE for those who will receive the baptism IN the Holy Spirit. If you want to stand up for Jesus and stand up for others who are being pushed around by the devil, you must be empowered with the stand-up-for-Jesus spirit that only comes from the Holy Spirit. 

Will you let the Holy Spirit put that stand-up spirit in you?

If you have missed any of the other messages in this series, please click here to access them.

A Mother’s Thunderous Prayer

Hannah only appears in the first two chapters of 1 Samuel, but her legacy thunders through her son, and its rumblings continue to reverberate today. At first glance, it seems somewhat ironic that Hannah’s name means grace (undeserved favor) because we tend to think of a grace-filled person as quiet and unassuming. We don’t typically think of grace as thundering, but indeed it does! 

Notice 3 P’s from Hannah’s life—

  1. Hannah is grace personified. She didn’t crumble because of Peninnah’s taunts, nor did she compromise on her heart’s prayer because of Elkanah’s compliments. She never responded verbally to either Peninnah or Elkanah, but she took all her anguish to God in prayer. 
  1. Hannah is persistent in prayer. Hannah lives out the definition of importunity—unswerving, unabated, persistent prayer. The Bible tells us, “year after year…in bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the Lord … she kept on praying to the Lord.” Notice an important contrast: Peninnah means jewels (from earth), while Hannah means grace (from God). God wants to give us answers that are eternal.  
  1. Hannah is piously reverent. Three times Hannah called herself a servant. She is respectful to the high priest Eli even when he falsely accuses her of being drunk. After Eli assures Hannah that God is going to grant her prayer request, notice her reverent actions—she broke her fast, her face was no longer downcast, she worshipped before the Lord, and she and Elkanah tried again to get pregnant.  

Hannah’s anguish drove her to God. Year after year her bitterness of soul kept her in God’s presence. And after God answered her prayer, her rejoicing continued to keep her in God’s presence. She was importunate in prayer.

But also notice that God was silent while Hannah prayed year after year. Oswald Chambers says, “God’s silences are His answers. … Some prayers are followed by silence because they are wrong [this wasn’t Hannah’s case], others because they are bigger than we can understand.” 

God was going to give Hannah a son, but the time wasn’t right yet. God needed a strong man in a dark time, and it wasn’t dark enough yet. 

Israel had to sink into even deeper darkness. While Samuel was still a young man, the Israelite army was defeated, Eli and his two sons all died, and the ark of the covenant of the Lord was captured. This prompted Eli’s daughter-in-law to name her son Ichabod—God’s glory has departed. 

This darkness allows Samuel to lead the people into a revival and then on to victory (1 Samuel 7:3-10). But notice how God responded to Samuel’s revival prayer—the Lord thundered with a loud thunder against the Philistines and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites. 

God’s response was a fulfillment of Hannah’s prayer. After God answered her and gave her a son, Hannah’s song of rejoicing foretold God’s response that was coming years later in Samuel’s revival—“It is not by strength that one prevails; those who oppose the Lord will be broken. The Most High WILL thunder from heaven…. 

Hannah’s song of rejoicing after years and years of bitter, importunate, persistent prayer was prophetic—and God’s thunderous answer to Hannah’s prayer is still rumbling today! 

Moms, don’t stop praying! God wants to answer your prayer. The Holy Spirit will help you pray (Romans 8:26). God’s timing IS coming. He will thunder His thunder in answer to your persistent prayer! 

If you have missed any of the posts in our We Are: Pentecostal series, please click here to access them.

In > On

When it comes to the Holy Spirit’s involvement in a Christian’s life: In > On.

Sometimes, instead of referring to the two major divisions of the Bible as Old Testament and New Testament, I prefer to use First Testament and Second Testament. This helps me remember that “Old” doesn’t mean outdated, and “New” doesn’t mean forgetting what came before it.

B.B. Warfield had a great analogy. He imagined the First Testament to be a perfectly-constructed mansion. Only the finest materials had been used, and the mansion had been constructed by the best craftsmen being overseen by the world’s premier Architect. The only problem was this mansion had no lights. With the appearing of Jesus in the Second Testament, finally the lights are turned on. Jesus reveals the beauty that was already there! 

In the First Testament, we frequently read that the Holy Spirit comes ON people, usually for leadership functions. We see this phrase with Moses and his co-leaders, several of the judges, Israel’s first two kings, and many of the prophets (see Numbers 11:25; Judges 3:10, 6:34, 11:29, 15:14; 1 Samuel 11:6, 16:13; 2 Kings 2:15). 

However, there is one leader in the First Testament about which we notice the Spirit came IN him. Twice Ezekiel says this (2:2, 3:24). This was hinting at a to-be-fulfilled promise in the Second Testament (36:25-27). 

The Holy Spirit being IN God’s people—which makes them God’s leaders—is described by Jesus in Acts 1:5. Many translations render this verse, “You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” But the NIV footnote and The Message both say “in the Holy Spirit.” Indeed, the Greek word means “by, with, or in.” But in context to being baptized (which means immersed, submerged, cleansed, overwhelmed), I think the best word is: baptized IN the Holy Spirit.  

Let me say it again: When it comes to the Holy Spirit’s involvement in a Christian’s life: In > On. 

“You hardly need to pray to have the Spirit poured out, for that has been done. What you need is a baptism of the Holy Spirit; to go down personally into that glorious flood that has been poured forth. Oh, to be immersed in the Holy Spirit and into fire—covered with His holy influence—plunged into the Godhead’s deepest sea and lost in His immensity! Here is our life and power.” —Charles Spurgeon 

Jesus wants all of His followers to be baptized IN the Holy Spirit. So He told us to keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking, keep on waiting for God’s promised infilling (Luke 11:9-13; Acts 1:4-8). 

Don’t stop at salvation—with just the Holy Spirit deposited in you—press on to be submerged deep into the Holy Spirit. 

If you missed the first couple of posts in this series, check out Where’s God Today? and The Holy Spirit Keeps Christians “Oscar Mike.” 

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