Monday, March 25, 2013

Bringing Our Whys to God


“Some time later, the woman’s son became sick.  He grew worse and worse, and finally he died.  She then said to Elijah, ‘O man of God, what have you done to me?  Have you come here to punish my sins by killing my son?’  But Elijah replied, ‘Give me your son.’  And he took the boy’s body from her, carried him up to the upper room, where he lived, and laid the body on his bed.  Then Elijah cried out to the Lord, ‘O Lord my God, why have you brought tragedy on this widow who has opened her home to me, causing her son to die?’”  (1Kings 17:17-20)

Dear Friends,

Prayer is a place where we can ask all our whys.  We must not demand that our whys be answered, but we can ask them out loud and know that God feels our pain.  The Bible tells us that God enters into the agony of His people.  “In all their suffering He also suffered, and He personally rescued them” (Isa. 63:9).  He wants to tell us what He knows we can bear.  I only know that when I bring my whys to Him in worship, I leave the throne room without them.

Ruth Bell Graham captures this perfectly in her poem “Sitting by My Laughing Fire:”

I lay my whys
Before Your cross
In worship kneeling,
My mind too numb
For thought,
My heart beyond all feeling.
And worshiping,
Realize that I
In knowing you
Don’t need a “why.”

Ruth is talking about the ability to let go of something that’s very painful.  Tough things mustn’t stop our prayers; they must drive us to prayer.

Notice that Elijah’s why didn’t keep him from praying; in fact, it appears to have driven him to more fervent petition.  “And he stretched himself out over the child three times and cried out to the Lord, ‘O Lord my God, please let this child’s life return to him’” (1 Kings 17:21).  That was pretty bold.  And in this instance God answered his prayer.

The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived.  Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house.  He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!”  Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth” (1 Kings 17:22-24).

Can you imagine their joy?  I find it hard to grasp what went on in the little house that evening, as Elijah, the widow, and her son talked.  Not only had God given life, but He had also given light.  The word from Elijah’s mouth was true!  His God was God indeed, and the widow and her son acknowledged it.

I can imagine that this incident in the prophet’s life would stand him in good stead when the test came later on Mount Carmel.  If God could raise a dead child, He could send down fire from heaven.  But then, all answered prayer should build our confidence.  Look back and think of a prayer that worked, of a God who was faithful to you.  God is the “same yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8).  Let yesterday’s answers give you hope for today’s dilemmas.  And remember, as the saying goes, “You are coming to a king, large petitions with you bring.”

In His Love,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine




Tuesday, March 19, 2013

God's Clocks Keep Perfect Time


Dear Friends,

When you’re praying for your family, it’s so easy to grow impatient.  What if something happens to them before they find the Lord?  Maybe someone is sick, and it seems obvious to you that God has to intervene now.  But God’s clocks keep perfect time.  “God time” is not to be confused with “people time.”

Think about old Zechariah.  One day when he was very old, he was in the Temple praying for the people (Luke 1:8-9).  Suddenly an angel appeared and said, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard” (Luke 1:13).  For a moment I can see the old man casting around in his mind, desperately trying to make sense out of it.  Which prayer?  The one he had just prayed for Israel?  Then the angel made it clear.  “Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son” (v. 13).  Oh, that prayer!  I can imagine Zechariah secretly thinking, Your timing is awful, Lord.  But God’s clocks keep perfect time, and John was born in the fullness of time and for the purposes of God.

We need to realize that none of our prayers fall to the ground.  I believe that every prayer we ever pray hangs, as it were, in space, until God answers it according to His eternal purposes.  We may not see it answered, or like the old priest, we may be very old before we do, but we can have faith that one day our mountain will “go jump in the lake” (Mark 11:23, The Message).  I have been learning to watch for the answers to my “old” prayers, rather than demand answers to my “new” ones.

One day our eldest son walked in a deep valley of sorrow.  It was a bitter place to be.  He serves on the staff of our church, and there was much support for him and many prayers.  As parents of an adult child, all Stuart and I could do was watch and pray.  It’s a difficult thing to bear private grief publicly, but David bore his grief with dignity and grace.  One day as we were sharing our hearts together, I was reminded of a little boy kneeling by the side of his bed saying his prayers.  He was six years of age at the time, and I remember stopping as I passed his door and being struck with the picture.  I also remembered what I prayed in that moment of time.  I prayed, not realizing the significance of my words, “Lord, make this child a man of dignity and integrity.”  Then I had added, “whatever it takes.”

That day as we talked, I recognized the answer to my “old” prayer.  It had taken sorrow to answer my prayer, but it had been answered, and I murmured under my breath, “Oh, I see, Lord, this is that answer,” and I worshiped.

It’s hard to pray a prayer for one of your loved ones that starts with “Whatever it takes, Lord,” but if you can manage it, God will handle it tenderly for you and help you to handle it too.  So when God answers a past prayer in the present, praise Him for it however hard it is, and one day He will answer your present prayer in your future, you’ll see.

In His Love,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine



Monday, March 11, 2013

Learn to Ask but Not Instruct


Dear Friends,

As you pray, learn to ask but not instruct.  Remember that God already knows what he will do to answer your prayers.  Hallesby says:

“We think we should help God answer our prayers.  We think we should suggest how he should go about giving us the answer.  Even though we do not give expression to it, we think like this.  ‘Dear God, this is what I am earnestly asking of thee.  I know that it is difficult, but if thou wilt do so and so, thou canst accomplish it.’”  (Prayer, 47)

We make use of prayer for the purpose of commanding God to do our bidding.  We need to stop asking for printouts or progress reports.

I think of Jesus’ testing His disciples in the Gospel accounts.  After teaching the multitudes and healing the sick, He told the disciples to feed the people.  “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked Philip (John 6:5).  Then the Scripture says, “He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do” (v.6).  Philip failed the test, for he didn’t relate the need to the Christ who could meet it.  He didn’t say, “Lord, feed the multitude and do it your way.  Show me how to be a part of the answer.”  Instead he left Christ out of the reckoning and set about forming a committee and working on a budget (v.7)!  Philip looked at a multitude of need and gave up.

In The Message, Eugene Peterson renders Jesus’ words in Mark 11:23:  “Embrace this God-life.  Really embrace it, and nothing will be too much for you.  This mountain, for instance:  Just say, ‘Go jump in the lake’… and it’s as good as done.”  This “God-life,” as Peterson calls it, is the life of faith.  It works on the basis of trust and obedience, and its lifeblood is prayer.  Its basis is helplessness, and its chief word is ask.  “Ask.  Just ask me,” says Jesus, “and see what I will do for you.  Ask me, and don’t tell me how.”

In His Love,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine


Monday, March 4, 2013

Remember Jesus is Praying for Us!


Dear Friends,

We must never discount the prayer ministry of Jesus Christ.  Once we realize that the Godhead – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit – is involved in the prayer life of the believer, a new confidence is born in our hearts.  “Why,” our spirit says when a sudden opportunity or word of wisdom visits us, “this is God’s idea, not mine!”  The ministry of our great High Priest is shown in the book of Hebrews 5:4-7.

 “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin.  Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Heb. 4:14-16).

This passage not only talks about us feeling confidence in approaching a holy God with our requests, it also speaks of the fact that Jesus is praying for us even as we pray for others!  What an incredible thought!  Stop right now and tell yourself, “Jesus is praying for me.”

This was brought home to me in the most dramatic fashion one day, at a low point in my life.  Lying in bed one morning, I willed myself to get up and face the day.  As I readied myself, I found my spirits lifting.  By the time I had eaten breakfast, my soul was tap dancing.  Standing quite still in the kitchen, I said to myself, Someone must be praying for me.  Immediately God’s quiet whisper spoke in my mind:  I am.  I stopped in my tracks, savoring the moment.  Jesus was praying for me – no wonder my spirits were soaring!

Not only does Jesus pray for us, but He prays with us.  He is infinitely concerned about those we love and for whom we pray, and He wants to pray with us for them.  Hallesby writes:

“You will see wonderful things in your prayer room.  You will see your eternal High Priest on His knees in prayer.  You will see Him beckon to you and ask you to kneel beside Him, and you will hear Him say, “You love these dear ones of yours, but I love them even more.  I have created them.  I have died for their sins.  I have followed them all the way.  You and I both love them, now let us both pray them into the kingdom of heaven.  Only do not be weary and discouraged if it takes time.”  (Prayer, 54)

What are you discounting as you pray?  The work of the Holy Spirit or the prayer work of Jesus Christ?  You are not alone in this battle of prayer.  God is for us, and “if God is for us, who can be against us” (Rom. 8:31)? 

In His Love,

Jill Briscoe
Executive Editor
Just Between Us Magazine