The material we have been using is authored by Jim Cymbala.
Pastor Cymbala knows the value of prayer.
It has been a great joy to be privy to his thoughts on the topic.
That last sentence is misleading, because it isn't his own thoughts that he shares, but what he has learned from walking with the Living God.
Many might view prayer as a place to pull out their laundry list of concerns; that is part of it, but a very small part.
The primary function of prayer is to draw nearer to God and recognize Him for Who He is.
When we get a glimpse of our God, our response will be to worship Him.
In that position what we then pray for comes from a heart that has been fixed on the Living God. These prayers come from a desire to honor our God; they are purer.
A couple of passages of Scripture have leaped out at me recently.
In Exodus, the Nineteenth chapter, the LORD God instructs Moses to prepare the people of Israel to meet Him.
They are going to meet God?!
Beginning with verse sixteen we are given a picture of what they encountered.
"So it came about on the third day, when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked (trembled) violently. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder (literally, a sound)."Now is that a God that we should casually wave our list before??
Obviously, the Israelites didn't think so either.
He is Holy!
Because of His Son, Jesus Christ, we have the privilege to be able to approach His Throne at all times.
In Old Testament times only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies and then just once a year!
Such a gift and privilege we have!
Unfortunately, it is easy for us mere humans to take such a privilege for granted.
Then we come as spoiled children looking for an over-indulgent Father.
This Father has bestowed so many blessings upon us.
It is time to stop and thank Him and give Him the glory He is due!
The Book of Ezra relates the beginning of the Temple's restoration.
Persia is now ruling over Israel and has allowed some of the people to return and to begin to rebuild the Temple.
Those who return had prayed for such an answer.
In the Third chapter, we read of the people's response when the Temple's foundation has been laid.
"Now when the builders had laid the foundation of the temple of the LORD, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the LORD according to the directions of King David of Israel. and they sang, praising and giving thanks to the LORD, saying, "For He is good, for His lovingkindness is upon Israel forever." And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the LORD because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid. Yet many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers' households, the old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, while many shouted aloud for joy; so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the shout of joy from the sound of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the shout was heard far away."There was a whole lot of emotion going on that day, wouldn't you say?!
When I approach my God in reverence, focusing on Who He is then my prayers are from my heart.
For His Holy Spirit leads my prayers.
There is a great satisfaction at those times.
When the answer comes, I cannot contain myself!
Well, I do a little bit or I would be heard far away too!
I want this to be the norm in my life, not the exception!
A while ago I mentioned hearing part of an interview of an author who wrote a book on blessings.
I now own the book, thanks to a very thoughtful friend!
It is entitled, "One Thousand Gifts" and the author is Ann Voskamp.
She believes that the remedy for many of our struggles is a thankful heart.
Mrs. Voskamp was challenged by a friend to begin to make a list of one thousand gifts from God. She begins to discover them scattered through her every day.
In the act of listing each one she has to stop and recognize the gift and the Giver. The act itself is a gift.
I had begun a blessing journal a few months ago. Each day I list all the blessings I find in Scripture and then what blessings fill my day.
There is always something.
Something occurred to me last night.
I look for the big stuff contrary to Mrs. Voskamp who takes notice of the simplest things....
Morning shadows across the old floors...
Cry of a blue jay from high in the spruce...
Moonlight on pillows....
The author speaks of being grateful in plenty or in need....
That reminds me of what Paul said in the letter to the Philippians, Chapter Four, verse Eleven.
"Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am."To delight in the simple, little things one must pay attention and that means being in the moment!
Ah.... I still am working on that, Papa!
I do not want to miss all those little gifts. They are there from Papa's Hand for my heart...
Just like the Monarch butterfly that flew right up to my windshield yesterday!
Imagine that Papa had one stick around this winter just to surprise me!!
Oh, let us praise the Holy One Who delights in blessing His children with so many gifts!
The greatest gift being prayer!