Day THREE: Nov 7-13

Each week for this season our devotions will be centered around the practice of PRAYER. Like the disciples we too have the opportunity to ask Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray.” We encourage you to read all prayers and Psalms out loud – let the words of Scripture fill your prayers!

Devotional Thought // Pastor James

If you’re like me you want your life to matter. You want the Lord to use you in some way that leaves a mark on the world and the people that you are in relationship with.

On most mornings before I get out of bed and my feet hit the ground, I pray some iteration of a simple prayer. “Lord, I want to do whatever you want me to do today. Help me to love everyone that I interact with today. Holy Spirit, will you help me to follow your lead.”

It has, over time, become my deepest desire that my life would be marked by love. That I would become more like Jesus every day, and ultimately become a person of Love. I’ll be honest, at times my attempts have fallen flat. VERY flat. In moments I have shown people around me, especially the people I live with, the furthest thing from love.

Here’s what I’ve discovered:

Most of my failings in loving others and ministering well, are a result of not being connected to the source of love. God himself. I have attempted to do “loving things” without being with the one who produces love in and through me.

Jesus both teaches and models for us that connectedness to God is essential for us the “fruit” of love to be evident in our lives. In fact Jesus says this:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:5

As it turns out, our primary way to connect with God is to rest in His presence in prayer. And as it also turns out, Jesus needed to do this to love and minister well too. It’s Jesus refers to as “Abiding.” We see over and over again that Jesus modeled resting with the father in prayer before he attempted to love, heal, work, minister and lead others.

Here are a couple examples:

35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

Mark 1:25

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

Mark 3:30-31

You may be thinking to yourself. “That’s great for Jesus, but my modern life is SO busy, and SO demanding.” I’d like to point out that in both instances either the disciples or the crowds put pressure on Jesus. They said things like, “Where have you been!!?? We’ve been looking for you!!” The demands were high, yet Jesus still started the day by communing with the father in prayer, and even stopped in the middle of the day to rest and get away to a quiet place. In a sense, Jesus had an unbroken fellowship with the father. Always directing and redirecting his mind toward the father,

Here’s the invitation: Begin today to pray more than you did yesterday. Look for opportunities and times to stop and pray when you normally wouldn’t.

Helpful hint for success: Don’t JUST add prayer. Replace a habit you’ve already established with prayer.

For example: If you normally wake right up and grab your smart phone to look at instagram, stop; and pray first instead. If you normally turn on a podcast in your car on the way to work, don’t. Let it be quiet in your car during the whole drive to work and pray instead. If you normally turn on Netflix at 8pm when the kids go to sleep, put off watching Netflix until 8:30 and instead pray first. I’m sure you can think of dozens of other daily rituals that you can replace with prayer.

What you’ll begin to see is that your heart will start to drift toward God more and more throughout the day. AND, the bi-product of this connection to God will be LOVE for others; the fruit of the Spirit birthed within you and spilling over into every relationship and aspect of your life.

I’ll leave you with a quote from one of my favorite author Dallas willard, that captures what happens as we begin to live into this reality and invitation of Jesus:

“The first and most basic thing we can and must do is to keep God before our minds. This is the fundamental secret of caring for our souls. Our part in thus practicing the presence of God is to direct and redirect our minds constantly to Him. In the early time of our “practicing” we may well be challenged by our burdensome habits of dwelling on things less than God. But these are habits—not the law of gravity—and can be broken. A new, grace-filled habit will replace the former ones as we take intentional steps toward keeping God before us. Soon our minds will return to God as the needle of a compass constantly returns to the north. If God is the great longing of our souls, He will become the pole star of our inward beings.”

– Dallas Willard

Psalm 26

1 Be my judge, O Lord, for I have walked innocently;
my trust has been in the Lord; therefore I shall not fall.
2 Test me, O Lord, and prove me;
examine my heart and my mind.
3 For your loving-kindness is ever before my eyes,
and I will walk in your truth.
4 I have not dwelt with evildoers,
neither will I have fellowship with the deceitful.
5 I have hated the company of the wicked,
and will not sit among the ungodly.
6 I will wash my hands in innocence, O Lord,
and so will I go to your altar,
7 That I may lift up the voice of thanksgiving
and tell of all your wondrous works.
8 Lord, I have loved the habitation of your house
and the place where your honor dwells.
9 O take not away my soul with the sinners,
nor my life with the bloodthirsty,
10 Whose hands are full of wickedness,
and their right hand full of bribes.
11 But as for me, I will walk innocently;
O deliver me, and be merciful unto me.
12 My foot stands firm;
I will praise the Lord in the congregations.

Closing Prayer

Lord, teach us to pray. Help us to persevere in prayer so that we may rightly know you and become deeply mature as your followers. Amen.

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