What’s Your Knee-Jerk Response To Trouble?

The patellar reflex is a helpful diagnostic tool for a doctor to check the health of your central nervous system. It’s commonly called the knee-jerk response. But beyond the medical world, it’s also come to mean “an immediate unthinking emotional reaction to certain stimuli.” This has implications for the health of our prayer life too. 

When Jesus talked about praying He never said, “If you pray,” but always “When you pray.” He assumed it would be a vital part of a Christian’s life. He also used a verb tense which would add an “ing” to the verb, so He was really saying, “When you are maintaining an ongoing dialogue with your Father.” 

So when something unexpected happens to us, Jesus wants us to say, “Why, my Father already knows about this!” This is the knee-jerk reaction Jesus wants to see. 

We see this on full display when Peter and John are told by the Jewish religious authorities not to talk about Jesus publicly anymore. When these men reported this threat to the rest of the church, notice their knee-jerk response: “When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God.” 

There are two interesting things I notice in their prayer. The first thing is how they used the Lord’s Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) as the template of their prayer. 

  • Our Father in HeavenSovereign Lord.
  • Hallowed be Your nameYou made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them.
  • Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heavenYour power and will decided beforehand what would happen. 
  • Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors“Consider their threats” was like saying, “Forgive us for inappropriate thoughts and forgive them for speaking ignorantly against Your name.”
  • Give us today our daily breadEnable Your servants to speak Your word with great boldness today. 
  • Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom, and the power and the glory foreverStretch out Your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders. May Your name be glorified!

The second thing I see in their prayer is that they stood on a biblical promise. They quoted the words of David from Psalm 2—words that had been penned nearly 1000 years earlier—and applied them to their present situation. 

What’s your knee jerk response to troubles? It’s an easy question to ask, and an easy answer to change.

When something comes at you from out of the blue, learn to say, “Why, my Father already knows about this!” Then find a biblical promise you can claim and turn that promise into a prayer modeled on Christ’s prayer. Pray that again and again until God provides the answer. 

Let’s make prayer our first response and not our last resort! 

Winning The Unseen Spiritual Battles

C.S. Lewis said, “If satan’s arsenal of weapons were restricted to a single one, it would be discouragement.” How true! In relation to our prayer time, satan tries to discourage with lies like—

    • “God has bigger things on His mind than your puny request!” 
    • “God helps those who help themselves; what have you done for yourself?”
    • “You created this situation and now you think God is going to bail you out?!?”
    • “Haven’t you prayed about this long enough already?” 
    • “Your prayers don’t really make a difference.” 

All of these lies are designed to discourage you, but always remember this—they are all lies! David said to God, “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in Your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book. My enemies will retreat when I call to You for help. This I know: God is on my side!” (Psalm 56:8-9) 

A great example of a man who prayed long and hard—and fought off the things that might discourage him to give up—was Daniel. 

Daniel had previously been given insight from God to interpret dreams, visions, and other messages from heaven, but on one particular instance, he was stuck. God gave Daniel a vision, but not the meaning of that vision. 

Daniel began to do two things in the physical realm that results in two unseen spiritual victories taking place. 

First, Daniel prayed. Daniel not only prayed boldly, but he also prayed long. Although Daniel prayed for 21 days, when an angel arrived with God’s answer, the angel said, “From the moment you decided to humble yourself to receive understanding, your request was heard in heaven. I have come in answer to your prayer.” 

Second, Daniel fasted. The word fast literally means “to cover the mouth.” In Daniel’s case, we know that for 21 days he abstained from meat and wine. But he also abstained from “choice food” (NIV). What are those? I think these might be our “comfort foods.” Foods we go to to help relieve stress. Foods that become substitute sources of help, instead of humbling ourselves to go to God and ask for wisdom. 

As Daniel was praying and fasting, it appeared that nothing was happening. But there were actually two victories won out of human sight. 

First, a spiritual battle was won. The angel sent to Daniel was locked in combat with a demon for 21 days before he broke free to come to Daniel. We are still involved in that kind of spiritual warfare today (see Ephesians 6:12-18). 

Second, Daniel was being refined and strengthened. When the angel arrived, he called Daniel “highly esteemed.” Don’t miss this—this greeting is the same Hebrew word used for what Daniel fasted (“choice food”). In other words, the temporary thing Daniel fasted turned into something of invaluable strength. 

What if Daniel had stopped praying after 2 days? 10 days? 20 days? 

Daniel—and you and I—may not see with our natural eyes the victories that are being won, but make no mistake about it: Our fasting and praying IS doing something amazing. 

Your prayers are being heard. Spiritual battles are being won. You are being refined. God IS going to accomplish something great. God IS being glorified. Don’t stop praying and fasting until God comes through!

Do not be discouraged as you wait on God. There is winning even in the waiting!

Join me this Sunday as we conclude on series looking at the bold pray-ers in the Bible. 

The Impossible Prayer

We have been looking at some bold pray-ers in the Bible, but today’s example takes it to a whole new level by praying an “impossible” prayer! Here are 4 valuable lessons we can learn from the prayer of Joshua. 

When this story opens, the city of Gibeon is calling on the Israelites to help them. Five Amorite kings have all ganged up on Gibeon because of the treaty they made with Israel, and they intended to crush them into oblivion! 

Joshua—without any debate, consultation, or hesitation—mobilizes his forces. Notice that there are no half-measures or hedging his bets. Joshua marches out with the entire army, including all of his elite warriors to rescue Gibeon. 

Joshua’s troops marched all night to cover the 21-miles to get to Gibeon by daybreak. Modern-day military experts say that an army can cover about 20-25 miles before they are at the point of total exhaustion, so Joshua took his men right up to this point. But this all-night march surprised the five attacking armies, so much so that the Bible says God threw those enemies into a panic and God even fought for them, raining hailstones down on the Amorites that killed more men than the Israelites did in their attack! 

After an all-night march and an all-day battle, the Amorites are on the run. This is when Joshua prays his “impossible” prayer. He asks God to let the earth stop rotating so that the sun and moon in the sky will give the Israelites enough light to complete their victory!!

AND GOD DOES IT!! 

How could Joshua pray such an “impossible” prayer like this? 

  1. He had already seen God do the “impossible” like drying up the Jordan River and knocking down the supposedly impenetrable walls of Jericho.
  2. God already told Joshua, “I have given them into your hand. Not one of them will be able to withstand you.” Joshua didn’t put an asterisk on God’s word—if God said every enemy would be defeated, that’s what Joshua was claiming. 
  3. Joshua was already moving forward in faith. He wasn’t sitting around waiting for God to do something. He was letting his marching be his praying. 
  4. By publicly praying this “impossible” thing, Joshua was ensuring that God would receive all the glory. The Bible says that Joshua prayed “with all Israel listening.” 

The sun stopped in its tracks in mid-sky; just sat there all day. There’s never been a day like that before or since—God took orders from a human voice! Truly, God fought for Israel (v. 14, The Message).

What about you? Does it feel like your problems are ganging up on you like a bunch of bullies? You, too, can pray an “impossible” prayer like Joshua did—

  1. Get God’s Word—what promise will you stand on? Don’t put any asterisks in there! 
  2. Know God’s peace—God told Joshua, “Do not be afraid of them.” 
  3. Watch God confuse your enemies—when the Israelites showed up God “threw them into confusion,” which literally means He discombobulated them so they couldn’t coordinate their counter-attack on Israel. 
  4. Publicly pray an “impossible” prayer while you fight! Tell others what your “impossible” prayer is so that God gets all the glory.

Join me this Sunday as we learn from another bold pray-er from the pages of Scripture. 

Come And See What Our God Has Done

Check out the opening verses of Psalm 66—

Shout joyful praises to God, all the earth!
Sing about the glory of His name!
Tell the world how glorious He is.
Say to God, “How awesome are Your deeds!
    Your enemies cringe before Your mighty power.
    Everything on earth will worship You;
    they will sing Your praises,
    shouting Your name in glorious songs.” Interlude 
Come and see what our God has done,
    what awesome miracles He performs for people! (66:1-5 NLT)

I’d like to explore with you this phrase—come and see what our God has done. 

In so many of the Psalms we get at least a little context. We might be told the type of song it is or the kinds of musical instruments to be sung. We might know who wrote the psalm or at least why he wrote it. We might even hear what was happening in the psalmist’s world at the time he wrote the song or maybe at what event he wanted the song to be sung. All of these things would give us context clues into when/where to use the song—when I’m afraid? when I’m under attack? when I’m happy? when I’m depressed? 

For this psalm all the context we know is—For the choir director: A song. A psalm. 

But let me ask you: does it really matter? If you’re up or down, flush with cash or barely hanging on, winning the fight or feeling like you’re being beaten down—in any circumstance, can you still say come and see what our God has done? 

I think the answer is yes. I think this is the reason why no context is given us, because this psalm is appropriate regardless of the circumstances.

Just as the apostle Paul wrote, “I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12-13).

As Christians, we’ve been called to step alongside people in their messy, broken lives. Yes, we are to weep with those who weep, but we’re not to keep them there but to take them to the One who can heal their messy, broken lives. 

The reasons to say, “Come and see what our God has done” are all around us. 

Earth’s crammed with heaven, 
And every common bush afire with God; 
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes, 
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries, 
And daub their natural faces unaware. —Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Don’t just pluck blackberries; realize that those berries are the produce of a loving Creator. Don’t miss the opportunities to give God glory. Good times are wonderful opportunities to start. But those are just the starting points. Find the reasons even in hard times—I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

Anywhere … everywhere … no matter the context … HE IS STILL GOD. He is still worthy to be praised. There is still ample reason for us to say, “Come and see what our God has done!” 

God Knows Your Name

Allow me to introduce myself in the Aramaic fashion—I am Craig bar Raymond. I am proud of my father and want my name to always be associated with his, so I remember my heritage by telling people I am Craig son of Raymond. 

If I wanted to be a little more formal I might introduce myself as Craig Bar Raymond Bar Colson, or even Craig Bar Raymond Bar Colson Bar Walker, to honor my forefathers back four generations. 

People took great pride in their family heritage. They wanted to keep their connection to their family and their tribe intact and known to those around them. It’s how they kept their standing in their community.

That’s why it’s odd that Luke—the premier historian that he is—introduces us to a man he simply calls “a blind man” in the city of Jericho. Luke was always so precise in mentioning names throughout both his Gospel and the Book of Acts, and it appears that this man does have a name. In the Gospel of Mark he is called Bartimaeus, and presumably Luke used Mark as one of his source documents. So why would Luke omit this guy’s name?

Keep in mind that “bar” simply means “son of,” so although Mark calls him Bartimaeus, his name is really something like “_________ son of Timaeus.” Is that because he was born blind and his parents didn’t even name him? Or was he thought so little of that people couldn’t remember his first name? Maybe it’s because Timaeus means unclean, defiled, polluted. So this blind beggar is really just the Anonymous son of Filth! 

This beggar is looking for alms in Jericho when he hears a commotion. He asks what is happening and is told, that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by. 

This man knows the reputation of Jesus, recalling that He has even opened blind eyes. Immediately he shouts, “Jesus, son of David have mercy on me!” Son of David is a title only used twice in the New Testament (also see Matthew 15:22), and both times by desperate people who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. 

Actually, his phrase is in the form of a command, so he really says, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me NOW! 

“Who do you think you are, you nameless beggar,” the townspeople rebuke him. “How dare you demand anything of anyone! Shut your mouth, you worthless piece of filth!” 

Undeterred, this man now raises his voice to a shriek and repeats, “JESUS, SON OF DAVID, HAVE MERCY ON ME NOW!” 

This shriek gets Christ’s attention and He stops dead in His tracks. He commands that this man be brought to him.

Check out the confidence this blind man shows—he throws his cloak aside to get to Jesus. Why is that significant? Because he’s blind! If he can’t see, how is he going to find his cloak again? Who would ever want to help him? 

Jesus asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He was testing him: did he want a hand-out? did he want revenge on the cruel people in Jericho? did he want to get back at his parents? 

He specifically prays, “I want to see.” Jesus is moved by compassion (Matthew 20:34) and says, “Your faith has made you whole.” The blind man immediately is healed! 

What was his faith that healed him? It was a loud, insistent, persistent, won’t-take-no-for-an answer, audacious request. The crowd said he was asking too much, but Jesus was moved to compassion by his insistence and boldness and answered his prayer. 

That community may have forgotten that man’s name. Maybe the blind man had even forgotten his own name. But God hadn’t! 

Jesus is moved by faith-filled, won’t-be-silenced cries for mercy. He wants to answer your specific requests. You aren’t an anonymous son or daughter of filth. You aren’t marginalized, worthless, or overlooked by your Heavenly Father. 

God knows your name. He knows your need. He is passing by. Cry out to Him again and again and again! When He answers your prayer, you are made whole and our Heavenly Father is glorified. 

Join me this Sunday as we continue to learn lessons for our prayer life from the bold pray-ers we find on the pages of the Bible. 

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.

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