Three Key Players, Part 3

Over the last three weeks we’ve studied areas of prayer–so that we might pray more effectively for ourselves and for others.

Today we finish that series with a final look at prayer through the lens of sacrifice.

The Prayer of Sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2)

Here is the way to know, and to do, the will of God. Paul understood it, and he presents it as a plea to every follower of Christ: “…offer your bodies as living sacrifices…be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2)

Isn’t this the deepest desire in the heart of every child of God? To know and do His will, through the transformation of our minds by the power of His Spirit? To lay our very lives on His altar and become acceptable to Him?

It is not only possible; it is essential, and it comes as we daily pray that prayer of sacrifice:

“Lord, accept the offering of my body as a living sacrifice; it is my spiritual act of worship. Transform me, by the renewing of my mind, so that I may know and do your will. Through the sacrifice of Your Son I come, and in His name I pray. Amen.”

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Three Key Players, Part 2

Today we kick off a three-part series on three separate areas of prayer. When we understand these three essential areas of prayer–we will pray more effectively for ourselves and others.

From both the example and the teaching of Jesus, we know that the Christian life does not consist of doing things–not working at Christian tasks–but of a relationship with Himself. This relationship is build through prayer.

The Bible gives many examples of how prayer is involved in this personal relationship with the Lord Jesus.

The Prayer of Surrender (Acts 9:6)
On the road to Damascus, Saul of Tarsus–chief persecutor of the Christians–was gloriously converted and became Paul, the anointed Apostle to the Gentiles. When he heard the voice of his Lord, and recognized Who had spoken to him, he had only one possible response–as we do:

“Lord, what do you want me to do?” (Acts 9:6 NKJV)

When Saul became Paul, he yielded his life completely to the will and work of Jesus Christ. He surrendered, and never again would be disobedient to his Master. That was the work of God’s transforming grace in the life of one man–and an example of the transformation that God seeks in the life of everyone He saves.

Ask it for yourself right now: “Lord, what do you want me to do?”

Be sure to check back next week for Part 3 of this series.

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Three Key Players, Part 1

Today we kick off a three-part series on three separate areas of prayer.  When we understand these three essential areas of prayer–we will pray more effectively for ourselves and others.

Jesus’ disciples asked Him: “Lord, teach us to pray.” (Luke 11:1) The evidence of the Gospel accounts would suggest that they were not only asking for a method; they might well have been saying: “Lord, show us why prayer is essential for our lives, as it seems to be for Yours.”

From both the example and the teaching of Jesus, we know that the Christian life does not consist of doing things–not working at Christian tasks–but of a relationship with Himself. This relationship is build through prayer.

The Bible gives many examples of how prayer is involved in this personal relationship with the Lord Jesus.

The Prayer of Salvation (Matt. 14:30)

In Matthew 14:22-31, Peter had asked to be empowered to walk on the water, and had heard the Master say “Come.” But Peter was suddenly gripped with fear, as he saw how precarious his position seemed. And he began to sink. It was then that Peter cried out the prayer we all must utter, “Lord, save me!” It was a prayer of helplessness, a recognition that he was sinking and had no power to save himself.

Two truths emerge from this incident:
•Jesus is the One Who calms fears
•When we ask for help, Jesus is the One Who says, “Come…” And He responds then when we cry out to be saved.

Be sure to check back next week for Part 2 of this series.

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Strong Faith

As we pray through the Twenty-Third Psalm, early on we must make a declaration of our faith, as David did. In the opening verse of his psalm, David declared, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.” [Psalm 23:1]

If we are honest with ourselves, we know that though we may pray this psalm every day as a personal prayer, there will be times when it seems that we are in want.

David had those days. Yet his psalm is an affirmation of his faith, his trust in the Lord, no matter what.

It can be such an affirmation for us as well, as we begin to know and love the Lord as David did. He was a man after God’s own heart–not a perfect man, but one who loved God. His beautiful psalm is a declaration of that love. David knew God in a personal way as his shepherd, and out of that experience of knowing God, he learned to trust Him. Over time, throughout his life, David’s faith was built through His experience with the living Lord, as ours will be.

Our prayer expresses that heart desire–“Lord, help me to know You, that I may have faith to believe that no matter what the circumstances, I can trust You. Help me to live with the certainty that I know I shall not be in want of what You know
that I need.”

Pray with us — Lord, may our love and faith and trust in You grow daily, for we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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The Lord–Our Shepherd

When we pray through the Twenty-Third Psalm, one of the reasons why it makes such a powerful and appropriate prayer is that is isn’t an easy prayer to pray.

David begins, “The Lord is my shepherd.” David understood what it meant to be a shepherd, how thorough, how complete, how total the care of the sheep had to be, for they were helpless without the shepherd. He knew how totally dependent the sheep were on the shepherd–for everything.

If we are to pray this psalm as a prayer, we must pray from David’s perspective– one of absolute dependence. Is that how we come to our Lord in prayer? Are we willing to set aside our natural independence to come as helpless and dependent as sheep?

David also knew how well a shepherd had to know each individual sheep–how else could he tell when one wandered away? He knew the commitment, the devotion that is required, the constant watch care and provision. He knew the heart of a shepherd.

What does that say about his relationship with the Lord, that he could equate Jehovah with his shepherd? What level of tenderness does that reveal in their relationship? What did David have to give up about himself to know Jehovah in that way?

What do we have to give up to be able to honestly pray, “Lord, You are my shepherd…?”

Pray with us — Lord, help us to come as sheep to our loving and faithful shepherd, totally dependent and filled with trust. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Personally Know the Lord

As we pray through the Twenty-Third Psalm, we are immediately faced with the reality of our personal relationship with the Lord. David begins this familiar psalm, “The Lord is my shepherd.” Not “a” shepherd. Not “the” shepherd. Not “our” shepherd. My shepherd.

Do you find that remarkable? That the Lord Jehovah, the great I Am that I Am, who spoke to Moses from the burning bush, who parted the Red Sea [Ex. 14:21], was willing for David to know Him as his personal shepherd? That we can know Him as our shepherd, too?

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me….” [John 10:14] The Greek word translated here as “know” does not mean to have factual knowledge or understanding. It means to know through personal experience, through a continuing and increasingly intimate relationship.

David’s psalm is a beautiful picture of just such a relationship with the Lord. David knew Him as One Who anticipated every need, Who was present at every juncture of his life. As we pray through David’s psalm, from the beginning it should be a glorious affirmation of our personal relationship with the One Who has chosen to reveal Himself to us, to allow us to know Him in a personal way.

Pray with us— Holy Lord, David was a man after Your own heart because he was willing to know You and loved You in a deeply personal way. May it be so for each of us, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Present in Our Lives

As we pray through the Twenty-Third Psalm, it begins, “The Lord is….” [Psalm 23:1] David, who wrote the psalm, goes on to say, “The Lord is my shepherd…” but it’s important that we pause to acknowledge the more foundational truth in our prayer: The Lord is.

The word David used for “Lord” is Jehovah, which means “I Am that I Am,” the Self-Existent One, our God Who lives beyond time, always in the present tense. He is not “I was” nor “I will be”–but “I am,” present with us yesterday, present with us today, and already waiting, present with us in each tomorrow of our lives.

When we pray, “The Lord is…,” we acknowledge that Jehovah is real. He is not a concept, not an idea, but the one and only living God, Who has chosen to manifest Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He not only exists out there in heaven somewhere, but He is here, with us, manifesting His presence to His children in such a way that we can know Him personally.

“The Lord is” becomes our personal prayer as we pray, “Lord, You are….” You are not only real, but You are real to me. You are present with me. You are my life. Pray with me now — Lord, You are timeless and eternal. May we know You as our ever-present Lord. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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Do we know our Savior as Jehovah?

Do we know our Savior as Jehovah?

As we pray through the 23rd Psalm, the opening words arrest us in worship. “The Lord is my shepherd.” [Psalm 23:1] The word Lord appears in all capital letters, which means it is represents the Hebrew “Jehovah”–God’s name that was so holy the Jews refused to speak it.

Jehovah is called the personal name of God, Jehovah, the great “I Am that I Am.” [Ex. 3:14] It is used in combination with other familiar Hebrew names for God: Jehovah-Rophe, our healer; Jehovah-Jireh, our provider; Jehovah-Shalom, our peace. Those are but a few of the great “Jehovah, I Am” names of God that reveal Who He is. Perhaps there is no more familiar or precious name than the one found
here in the 23rd Psalm, Jehovah-Rohi, our shepherd.

Whenever we see the word LORD in the Old Testament written in all caps, we should stop to consider: Jehovah is Jesus; Jesus is Jehovah. As we think of Jesus as our Shepherd, there is such comfort in that image. It is a side of His nature that He has revealed again and again in Scripture [Is. 40:11, Jer. 31:10, Eze. 34:12] because He wants us to know Him as our caring Shepherd. But first, we must know Him as Jehovah, the great I Am. That is where our worship begins.

Pray with me now — Jehovah-Jesus, You are timeless, eternal and unchanging, the ever-revealing One, and we love You. We come to worship in Your name. Amen.

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Is the Lord the Lord of our lives?

Is the Lord the Lord of our lives?

We are praying through the 23rd Psalm. Actually, we’re just beginning with, “The Lord is my shepherd….” [Psalm 23:1] These are familiar words for most Christians; and as we pray them, especially as we use this psalm as a prayer of worship, we mustn’t
hurry through it just because we know it well.

We consider what “the Lord” means–the one and only Lord. He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, but there is but one God and Father of us all [Eph. 4:6.]. There are so many facets of His nature, His character, His attributes that it takes hundreds of names, titles and descriptions in the Word to help us understand Who He is and wants to be in our lives.

Jesus, our Shepherd, is the Lord, the image of the invisible God, the first born over all creation. …He is before all things, and in him all things hold together… for God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him. [Col. 1:15,17,19]

We enter our time of worship, using this simple psalm as our guide, and we pause to contemplate all that the Lord means to us. What has He meant to us in the last few days? How has He revealed Himself? How have we grown to love Him? These are the things we share from our heart as we begin our prayer of worship.

Pray with me now—Lord Jesus, You are the Lord and there is no other. You are our Shepherd and so much more. We magnify, we pray in Your name. Amen.

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Have you ever prayed the 23rd Psalm?

Have you ever prayed the 23rd Psalm?

I hope you have, because the 23rd Psalm makes such a touching prayer, that can be prayed from many perspectives. It is one of those passages of Scripture that many people have memorized, usually as young children. That makes it familiar, and easy to use as a prayer, knowing we don’t have to pray it verbatim. We are going to move through the psalm a word, a phrase, a verse at a time to suggest various ways to use it as prayer. It is perhaps most beautifully used as a prayer of worship, exalting the Lord for Who He is and all He means to us personally. It is a wonderful way to open our quiet time, to come into His presence with an expression of love and adoration.

The 23rd Psalm also makes a balanced prayer of petition, one we would pray for ourselves. It is a guide for prayer requests that we can know are His will. That’s one of the advantages of praying through Scripture–when we do, we can pray confidently, knowing we are asking for those things it will please Him to do for us.

This psalm is a perfect one to pray over children and loved ones, or even those wedon’t know very well, as an intercession. Or, to guide us through a time of personal confession. Why not try it for yourself? Begin with worship.

Pray with me now—Holy Shepherd, we exalt You as the One Who loves perfectly. We live in Your love, and pray in Your name, amen.

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