Pray for each other

Last week in our cell group we were given an assignment. Each one had to choose a piece of folded paper which had the name of one of the members of the group. We would pray for the person whose name we chose and find a scripture for that person. It was a very simple sounding exercise, but it had far reaching effects.

What does it mean to pray for someone?

James 5:16, The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.

James 5:16, for tremendous power is released through the passionate, heartfelt prayer of a godly believer! (The Passion Translation)

This verse says so much. Tremendous power is released. What a statement. When we pray for someone we are representing that person before the throne of God. We are saying to God, “please bless Mary; please give her wisdom; give her the ability to do the things which are difficult for her; give her the grace to be able to put behind her the things that are holding her back; let the power of the Holy Spirit manifest in her life; put ministering angels around her and protect her from harm.” We have been given the power to represent someone else before God.

Romans 1:9,  For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers,

Ephesians 1:15-16, 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:

Ephesians 3:14-19, For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height — to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

If we are constantly praying for our fellow believers in this way and they are praying for us, we won’t even need to pray for ourselves! It is such a blessed state to be in, knowing that someone is carrying you in prayer. There’s a war going on and we have to cover our fellow believers.

John 17:20-26, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.

“Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”

This is such a profound prayer that Jesus prayed for every one of us.  He poured out His heart before God on our behalf. And because you cannot take words back once they have been spoken, these words that Jesus uttered are still resounding in the universe. Just think about it. Jesus prayed for you and me before He died. Why would we want to resist the call to follow Him if that is how much He loves us? And if Jesus prayed for us who are we not to pray for each other?

We have been granted an open invitation to have an audience with the King whenever we wish. Let us use our time wisely by praying for each other.

Read your Bible, pray every day

We aren’t merely puppets in God’s hands and neither have we been programmed to do the things that God planned for us to do. It takes effort to be in His will. First of all it is a conscious decision that we have to make to accept Jesus as our saviour. Secondly we have the responsibility of growing spiritually by reading the Word and by keeping up a relationship with God. We have to make sure that we are 100% sure that we want to follow Jesus and that we aren’t lukewarm Christians who just go to church on Sundays and read a daily devotional when it suits us. We should all be very much knowledgeable and aware of the contents of the Bible. It isn’t privileged information for pastors only. It isn’t just ministry and theological students who have to study the Bible. It isn’t just for missionaries to know the Bible. It is for every believer. Someone once said to me that it’s impossible for anyone to spend more time reading their Bible than it is to watch television. I proved her wrong, but times change and I want to say that we should be spending more time in God’s Word and in prayer than we do on social media.

How often don’t people complain that life doesn’t come with a manual, but it does. The Bible is our manual for life. There are no questions we can ask that don’t get answered in the Bible. If someone wants to practice law they have to go to university for a number of years and they have to study and memorize all kinds of laws and precedents. Imagine going to court and having someone represent you who has never studied law. What a disaster that would be. Likewise how can we step into the courtroom of heaven and ask God for something if we don’t know what is written in His book?

James 4:1-5, Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”?

If we don’t read the Bible and in the process discover that we should be asking God for His will for our lives, we are going to fall into this trap. We look at the world and at people who aren’t believers and we see the things they have and the things they view as being important and we are deceived into thinking that those are the things in life that really are important. Things, stuff, possessions and money are not bad, but they aren’t the most important things in our lives. The state of our souls is way more important than the state of our bank account. We are led to believe by the worldly way of thinking that we are less than good enough if we don’t have enough money. But here’s a newsflash, if money is our motivator, we will never have enough. There are billionaires that died of starvation because they were too mean to use their money to buy food for themselves.

1 Timothy 6:7, For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.

Note that this verse does not say that money is the root of all evil, but that the love of money if the root of all evil. I know that there are people who have an anointing to make money so that they can finance the Kingdom, but that is different from having money as your motivator. Money can never be our reason to live. We can’t let money (the lack of it or the excess of it) keep us awake at night. We cannot be blindly led be the world and think that their way is the right way. We have to read our Bibles and we have to follow what they say. That’s the only way that we are going to be in God’s will.

He shall direct your paths

I’ve been thinking a lot about prayer lately. Especially about crisis prayer. That kind of prayer when someone is badly injured and all of a sudden people who never pray start praying. Nothing wrong with that. Prayer can never be bad. So everyone prays and the injured person gets better and everyone says hallelujah and everyone stops praying because the crisis is over. Not? Really? Of course they stop because, after all, that’s what prayer is for isn’t it? For God to listen to us when we need something and then give it to us. At least that is what a lot of people seem to think. Why would we speak to God when everything is going well? What would we say?

We find the answer in Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

And lean not on your own understanding;

In all your ways acknowledge Him,

And He shall direct your paths.

In the Amplified version it says:

Trust in and rely confidently on the Lord with all your heart

And do not lean on your own insight or understanding.

In all your ways acknowledge and recognize Him,

And He will make your paths straight and smooth [removing obstacles that block your way].

If we trust in the Lord with ‘all your heart’, it means that every part of our lives must depend on God. Not just the parts that are convenient to us, or the parts that we choose. Every little part. The impatient part, the addicted part, the lazy part etc. We can’t decide from day to day what we are going to trust God with. “lean not on your own understanding…” Means can’t say, or tell ourselves, that we are trusting God, but we are still taking certain matters into our own hands by manipulating people and situations. Praying also doesn’t mean that we tell God what He must do and then sit back and wait for Him to do it. What if He doesn’t do it? Then we say prayer doesn’t work? The very first step is to give every little part of our lives, even the parts we aren’t so proud of, to God. Revelation 22:17 is an invitation to all, “Come! Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Whosoever means all of us. Not just the perfect and holy ones.

The next line, “In all your ways acknowledge Him,” says to us that we have to sit down and tell God what we are busy with. We have to let Him know what is going on in our lives. The fact that He already knows each little detail of our lives only means that He already has the perfect solution to all our troubles. He loves us so much that He desires a relationship with us. As we all know, relationships need words. So we have to use our words and tell our loving Father what is going on in our lives. Even the parts that embarrass us. No-one is so bad that God is going to reject a relationship with him. In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke we find the story of the woman who had an ‘issue of blood’ which made her unclean. Despite this she touched the hem of Jesus’ garment and was made whole. The laws of that time meant that while she was menstruating she was not allowed to touch anyone. Because this problem had been going on for a very long time she became desperate and broke the law in order to be healed. Sometimes we have to break self imposed ‘laws’ in order to become whole. We have to change our way of thinking and even our way of seeing ourselves. We are not going to be rejected by God just because people might reject us. John 14:6 – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” I wish I could put a whole row of smiley faces in here. This is the crux of it all. We accept Jesus as our Saviour, invite Him into our hearts, and because God then sees us through the holiness of Jesus – through the blood He spilled for us.

“And He shall direct your paths.” We come to God, redeemed from sin by the blood of Jesus, and tell Him all about our lives. We don’t go around making our own plans to overcome our problems (we really trust Him) and He will lead us to do the right things. Just picture this: we are in trouble, irrespective of whether it is of our own making or not, and we put it before God, we can be secure in the knowledge that He will handle that trouble. He will give us the solution to the problem, and we will have peace of mind. The peace that passes all understanding (Philippians4:7) will belong to us. He will prepare a table in the presence of our enemies (Psalm 23:5) and goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives (Psalm 23:6). It doesn’t mean that nothing bad will ever happen to us, but we will have the assurance that whatever happens, when we bring it before God, we can have the peace of mind that He will handle it.

Pray for the bad guys

I am reading ‘The President’s Keepers’ by Jacques Pauw. It is insightful and shocking to say the least. I am not getting upset or cross while I read because the things that are written are in the past. They have happened and I can’t change the past no matter how hard I try. I am reading the book in order to understand why the situation in the country is as it is. I want to understand how the politicians and their associates think. Even though there is nothing I can do about the past, there is something I can do about the future.

I can pray.

Last week I heard a gentleman say that the churches have it all wrong because you shouldn’t be praying for corrupt politicians as they aren’t going to change. Matthew 5:44 – ‘But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use and persecute you.’ That statement Jesus made is so profound I think I should read it every day just to remind myself what prayer is all about. In the next chapter (Matt 6:9-13) Jesus gives his disciples The Lord’s Prayer or the Our Father. It’s lovely and most Christians know it off by heart. What we choose not to read though is verse 14 and 15 which state the following, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Therefore we aren’t only called to pray for our enemies but we also have to forgive them.

If someone is cursing you, hating you, spitefully using you or persecuting you, you are called to love them, do good to them, pray for them and forgive them. Are you doing all these things because you approve of what they are doing or because you excuse their behaviour? Not at all! You are setting yourself free from the bondage that holding a grudge or living with unforgiveness brings. You are asking God to set you free so that you will be able to live your life to its full potential. Living with unforgiveness makes you sick. It’s like hanging a potato around your neck on a string. At first you feel the weight of it all the time but after a while you actually get used to it. Then, you start to smell something and much to your dismay the potato has started to go rotten. It is in your nostrils all the time and you can’t even get a good night’s sleep because of the stench. You can’t get rid of the potato and the smell unless you cut the string. Cutting the string is forgiving the person for whatever they have done to you and then praying for them. Who benefits from the string being cut? The potato is still in the same state it was. It’s not going to suddenly revert to being a good potato. You are reaping the benefit because now your friends won’t mind being around you again, you can enjoy life and sleep well at night.

So, we have to love and do good and forgive and pray irrespective if our ‘enemies’ are politicians, criminals, acquaintances or our brothers and sisters that we had a disagreement with. What will God do then? In Psalm 35 David is speaking to God about the people who are trying to kill him. Verse 5 says “And let the angel of the Lord chase them.” I believe if we do the things that the Bible tell us to do and if we earnestly see the Lord and put Him first in our everyday life, He is going to make our paths straight and we can say, “Praise the Lord, O my soul! It is well with my soul! 

Brimstone and Fire

Brimstone and Fire

I have often heard of the ‘brimstone and fire’ preachers. Definition:- “an idiomatic expression of signs of God’s wrath in the Old and New Testament. In the Bible, they often appear in reference to the fate of the unfaithful. This term is also used to describe a style of Christian preaching that uses vivid descriptions of judgement and eternal damnation to encourage repentance.” Brimstone is the archaic name for sulphur. I have also often heard people say that we need more of the brimstone and fire preachers today so that the people can repent of their evil and turn to God. I beg to disagree. I don’t think that telling someone how bad he is will make him change his ways. One reason for that is because he already knows he is doing things which aren’t right. Even if a person grows up with the Bible and biblical principles, or parents who teach right from wrong, he grows up in a country with certain rules and laws. These laws are there to protect the citizens and normally reflect the norms and culture of the people of that country. And then also every person is born with something called a conscience. There are a few people who have psychological problems, whose conscience apparently doesn’t function as it should, but they are a very small minority.

Romans 2:14 and 15 puts it into a nutshell: “for the Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law unto themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them…”

Romans 2:4 “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?” To me that means that people do know when they are doing things that are wrong, and the God’s goodness (love) will cause them to repent. Preachers or people who tell others how bad they are and condemn them are not going to make much of an impression. If we love people we will be reflecting the nature of God and we will attract people instead of pushing them away with judgemental attitudes. I don’t think we pray for people because we feel sorry for them. We pray for them so that God can work in their lives. If you are perfect you don’t need anyone to pray for you. Jesus uttered some very profound words

 in Matthew 5:44, “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,”

I don’t think fire and brimstone or even brimstone and fire are going to get us anywhere. You catch many more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Pray for the leaders

I have had a very difficult week. Emotionally taxing. On Thursday residents of a certain area were protesting about housing. Apparently the money that was supposed to be used to build hoses had been misappropriated. These people were blocking the main road through out town. Trash, large stones and old car tyres we deposited across the road at various strategic points to prevent traffic from entering and leaving. Soon the tyres had been set alight and the police came along to disperse them. Nobody was injured, some damage was done to the potted palms in the middle of town, and there was a lot of debris to be removed from the street. There were a lot of irate motorists and the businesses in town who are dependent on passing traffic lost business. Then the next day the president fired half of his cabinet and replaced them. This obviously had nothing to do with the protests in a small insignificant town. Speculation as to what the repercussions will be for the country are all over the newspapers and internet. And then one of the opposition parties is saying that farms belonging to white farmers must be redistributed to black people.

These things are causing a lot of negativity. Every time you log into Facebook or other social media there are negative comments. There’s a petition that people can sign which is demanding that the president must be taken out of office. Then I saw another Facebook post where a friend of mine said that we have to pray for our leaders instead of demand that they be removed from their jobs. It was not what I expected to see given all the negative and aggressive talk. I thought about it and I realized that this was exactly the reminder I needed. I have had such negative thoughts racing around my head that I was in a bad mood. I was walking around with a frown and finding it very hard to be joyful. I asked God how I am supposed to handle the situation we find ourselves in.

Phillipians 4:4 says “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” and further in the same chapter, verse 8 says, “Finally bretheren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.” So, if we want to be joyful and always rejoice we have to think about good things, great and beautiful things, not negative or ugly things. We have to fill our minds with purity and beauty and things that are praiseworthy. How on earth do we do that when the world is in the mess it currently is?

The Bible clearly instructs us to pray for our leaders. 1 Timothy 2:1-3, “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our saviour.” I don’t think that Paul said this because he and the ruler had a good relationship. The emperors and kings of that time actively persecuted Christians and Nero gave the order to have Paul beheaded. If we think we’re having a hard time with our ruler I think we ought to update our historical knowledge.

This is how I practically see these verses.

If I want to be joyful I need to think about positive things, but how do I do this when everything I hear and see is negative? I have to start praying for the leaders of my country. I don’t have to like people to pray for them but if I’m praying for them I cannot be negative about them. That means my mind can’t be filled with negative thoughts. If I’m not praying for them I will be thinking about all the negative things I hear and see. Romans 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” I don’t want to be like the rest of the world who are angry and negative and depressed. I want my mind to be renewed so that I can be in God’s will.

I have to pray for them to receive salvation, to be able to make Godly decisions even if they aren’t godly people (yet) and for them to be guided by the Holy Spirit. I am sure that there will be many more things I’m going to discover that I can pray for as I go along. But for now I have to just start praying.