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  1. 1. dailytalks.indd iiidailytalks.indd iii 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  2. 2. D A I LY T A L K S w i t h god dailytalks.indd idailytalks.indd i 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
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  4. 4. D A I LY T A L K S w i t h god dailytalks.indd iiidailytalks.indd iii 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  5. 5. Daily Talks with God Published by Guideposts 16 East 34th Street New York, New York 10016 Copyright © 2011 by Guideposts. All rights reserved. This book, or parts thereof, may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the written permission of the publisher. Acknowledgments Every attempt has been made to credit the sources of copyrighted material used in this book. If any such acknowledgment has been inadvertently omitted or miscredited, receipt of such information would be appreciated. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Scripture quotations marked (nas) are taken from the New American Standard Bible, copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. Scripture quotations marked (nkjv) are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version. Copyright © 1997, 1990, 1985, 1983 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. “Prayer Starter”and “Prayer Closer” were written by Lucile Allen. “Praying with Jesus” was written by Karen Barber. Cover design by Georgia Morrissey Cover photo by Corbis Images Interior design by Gretchen Schuler-Dandridge Typeset by Aptara Printed and bound in the United States of America 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 dailytalks.indd ivdailytalks.indd iv 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  6. 6. CONTENTS Introduction.............................................................................vii Week 1: Prelude to Praying with Jesus ........................................1 Week 2: Praying an Affirmation of Love .....................................7 Week 3: Led by the Spirit in Prayer ..........................................13 Week 4: Human Reasoning and Prayer ....................................19 Week 5: Intimately Known in Prayer ........................................25 Week 6: Prayer and God’s Good Planning ................................31 Week 7: Prayer and Rejection ..................................................37 Week 8: Prayer Authority ..........................................................43 Week 9: Praying in a Solitary Place .........................................49 Week 10: The Testimony of Prayer’s Power ...............................55 Week 11: Praying for Helpers ...................................................61 Week 12: Praying for Enemies .................................................67 Week 13: The Secret of the Prayer Closet .................................73 Week 14: Words in Prayer ........................................................79 Week 15: Our Model Prayer ....................................................85 Week 16: Prayer and Fasting ....................................................91 Week 17: The Rewards of Prayer ..............................................97 Week 18: Belief and Prayer ....................................................103 Week 19: Prayer and Trust .....................................................109 Week 20: Prayer As Worship ..................................................115 Week 21: Praying in Spirit and in Truth ................................121 Week 22: Prayer and Opportunity ..........................................128 Week 23: Voicing Our Desires ...............................................134 Week 24: The Multiplying Power of Thanksgiving .................140 Week 25: Talking to God Symbolically ...................................147 dailytalks.indd vdailytalks.indd v 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  7. 7. Week 26: The Alternatives to Prayer .......................................154 Week 27: The Satisfying Nature of Prayer ..............................161 Week 28: Self-Examination and Prayer ..................................166 Week 29: Touching Jesus in Prayer ........................................171 Week 30: Prayers of Joy ..........................................................177 Week 31: Carrying Our Cross via Prayer ................................183 Week 32: The Transfiguring Power of Prayer ..........................189 Week 33: Prayer Failures .......................................................195 Week 34: Prayer Hospitality ...................................................201 Week 35: Persistence in Prayer ...............................................206 Week 36: Prayer and Humility ...............................................212 Week 37: Prayers of Blessing ..................................................218 Week 38: Delayed Answers to Prayer ......................................223 Week 39: Prayer As a Witness ................................................229 Week 40: Prayer and Anger ....................................................235 Week 41: Lending Creation Our Voice in Prayer ....................241 Week 42: God’s House of Prayer .............................................247 Week 43: Jesus with Us in Prayer ...........................................253 Week 44: Praying in the Name of Jesus ..................................259 Week 45: Praying with the Power of the Holy Spirit ...............265 Week 46: Travailing in Prayer ................................................271 Week 47: Prayers of Unity .....................................................277 Week 48: Gethsemane Praying ..............................................283 Week 49: Praying against Temptation ....................................288 Week 50: Praying When We Feel Abandoned by God .............294 Week 51: Recognizing the Divine through Prayer ...................300 Week 52: Declaring Love through Prayer ...............................306 Scripture Reference Index .....................................................311 Subjects Index .......................................................................318 dailytalks.indd vidailytalks.indd vi 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  8. 8. vii INTRODUCTION One of the themes that runs through the Bible like a golden thread is that of prayer. “Call upon me in the day of trouble,” God tells us through the psalmist (Psalm 50:15). “Call to me and I will answer you,” God says through Jeremiah (33:3). “Jesus,” Luke relates, “told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not to give up” (Luke 18:1). “In everything,” says Paul, “by pray- er and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). Guideposts has been committed to putting those biblical teach- ings into practice by praying for and with its readers and by helping people everywhere to find richer, deeper and more disciplined prayer lives. The book you are holding in your hands has been specially de- signed and written to help you find more fulfillment in your faith walk. Daily Talks with God is designed to be used over the course of a year. The weeks are numbered so that you can begin your year whenever you like. Each week features “Praying with Jesus” (a lesson by Karen Barber, author of Surprised by Prayer), which explores the riches of Jesus’ teaching on prayer with • a Scripture reading; • Key Verses for reflection; • an invitation to enter the Bible story and discover its deeper meaning; and • a practical, simple suggestion for putting the Scriptures to work in your own prayer. Each weekly theme is opened up for daily prayer with • an additional Scripture; • a brief Prayer Starter to help you begin your prayer; and dailytalks.indd viidailytalks.indd vii 3/2/11 2:55 AM3/2/11 2:55 AM
  9. 9. viii • a Prayer Closer to help you sum up your reflections and bring your prayer time to a close. Whether you have five minutes or a whole hour, it is our prayer that Daily Talks with God will help make your own daily prayer time even sweeter, a true conversation with the One Who loves you more than you can ever know. dailytalks.indd viiidailytalks.indd viii 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
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  12. 12. 1 PRAYING WITH JESUS: Week 1 Prelude to Praying with Jesus SCRIPTURE: Mark 1:1–8 KEY VERSES: “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” —mark 1:7–8 ENTERING THE SCRIPTURES Before we embark on our journey learning to pray with Jesus, we need to start at the very beginning, in those strange and anxious moments of Mark 1 before Jesus steps into our world to revolutionize prayer. We all once lived in our own personal “Before Christ” worlds where we didn’t pray with regularity because we rarely felt the need to pray or we weren’t really sure how to go about it. Perhaps we did quite well for many years, running on our own personal steam of determination and willpower, relying on our talents, and depending on our network of family and friends. And then out of nowhere came an unexpected detour into the wilderness—a life situation we couldn’t remedy, like a job loss, a serious diagnosis, a personal habit that threatened to ruin us, a marriage difficulty, the death of a loved one or a loved one in trouble. Suddenly we found ourselves emotionally drained and spirit- ually empty and very much in need of power beyond our own. In this Scripture passage we come face to face with a fiery, pas- sionate man named John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness along the lonely banks of the Jordan River. His words aren’t always pretty or easy to hear, but he speaks with a power and authority that we secretly wish we had. He proclaims uncomfortable truths about the not-so-healthy ways we’ve been living. This makes us squirm, but it also feels refreshing and freeing. Then John cries again, “Repent! Confess your sins! Be baptized!” And somehow we find the courage to wade into the water, our hearts pounding. dailytalks.indd 1dailytalks.indd 1 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  13. 13. 2 As we wait our turn, our desperate need to change overcomes a thousand misgivings. We hold our breath and go underwater. We come up and gasp for air and wipe the water out of our eyes. As we fight our way back to the shore against the weight of the water, we wonder, “Will it work?” We shiver on the riverbank, wringing out our robes, disappointed to find our old familiar emptiness is still there. It crosses our mind that maybe we didn’t get the ritual right. Maybe we didn’t stay under the water long enough. Or maybe we didn’t confess everything we should have. John reads the deep worry lines on our forehead and booms out, “I baptize you with water but the one who’s coming after me—the one whose shoes I’m not worthy to untie—he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit! We now have a way to express that indelible quality of power that John displays, the ability to look life straight in the eye without flinching. We want his kind of confidence, his kind of power. But John says there’s another One Who will have the au- thority and power to do it. Who is He and where is He? John’s strange and glorious proclamation about repenting is not only a prelude to the ministry of Christ but also defines our own personal preludes to prayer. Before we begin to pray we first must experience hunger and need, that empty, helpless feeling down in- side our stomach that tells us we can’t possibly manage our lives on our own. Without knowing it, life’s complexities prepare us to meet Christ in prayer every time something goes haywire, every time we feel discouraged, every time we are about to give up, every time we’re sorry for our thoughtless words, every time we feel totally unworthy of anything good. Prayer acknowledges that there is an unseen spiritual side to life that we are ill-equipped to navigate on our own without help. We need Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit to learn how to pray. We hesitantly voice our need and as we do, we take our first step in our transforming prayer journey with “the one who comes after me who will baptize you in the Holy Spirit.” dailytalks.indd 2dailytalks.indd 2 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  14. 14. 3 PRAYING THE SCRIPTURES This week, linger on the banks of the Jordan River by asking God to help you become aware of the ways in which your life difficulties, personal mistakes and shortcomings have turned you into a spiritual seeker. Ask Jesus to show you how to use these negative parts of your life as preludes to prayer. Then find a personal way to symbolically offer them as unlikely tools into the outstretched hands of Christ so you can start on your way in your prayer journey, on which you may be filled with the unmistakable power of the Holy Spirit. dailytalks.indd 3dailytalks.indd 3 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  15. 15. 4 Week 1: Holy Spirit Sunday: Receive the Holy Spirit Scripture: And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” —john 20:22 Prayer Starter: Lord Jesus, I come to You today as Your disciple, ready to receive from You. Breathe on me, Lord. Fill me not just in adequate measure, but until I’m overflowing with Your Holy Spirit. Prayer Closer: Thank You, Lord Jesus, for Your life within me by Your Holy Spirit. Please continue to flow into me, through me and out to those around me with Your love. Monday: Power of the Holy Spirit Scripture: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. —romans 15:13 Prayer Starter: It’s so easy to be discouraged by the pain and heart- ache in this world, Lord. Come, Holy Spirit, and give me hope so that I can bring hope to those around me who are discouraged too. Prayer Closer: Thank You, God, for helping me see You at work in my life and in my loved ones’ lives. At the end of each day, help me to be grateful and hopeful about what You are doing. Tuesday: Fellowship of the Holy Spirit Scripture: May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. —2 corinthians 13:14 Prayer Starter: Lord Jesus, I receive Your grace today; God, I re- ceive Your love; Holy Spirit, thank You that I can walk in fellowship with You today and every day. dailytalks.indd 4dailytalks.indd 4 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  16. 16. 5 Prayer Closer: I don’t even want to imagine what my day would have looked like without You, Lord. Thank You for walking with me through _________________________________ today. Be with __________________________ and let him/her feel Your presence as he/she _________________________. Wednesday: Taught by the Holy Spirit Scripture: “Do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.” —luke 12:11–12 Prayer Starter: Lord, how often I’ve walked away from conversa- tions knowing I missed an opportunity to speak life-giving words to acquaintances and friends. Give me Your words today, Holy Spirit. Say what You want to say through me. Prayer Closer: You teach me so much more than just what to say, Lord. Through the Holy Spirit, thank You for giving me kindness and gentleness and wisdom when I need it. Thursday: Righteousness, Peace and Joy in the Holy Spirit Scripture: For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drink- ing, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.... —romans 14:17 Prayer Starter: Lord Jesus, those who walked the earth with You thought You were going to conquer their enemies and set up Your kingdom here. I’m so grateful that Your kingdom has come to my heart and lives within me by Your Holy Spirit. Prayer Closer: Lord, I’m not the most spiritually discerning child of Yours, but even I can see that ______________________________ needs Your kingdom to come to him/her. Fill _________________ ______________ today with Your righteousness, peace and joy. dailytalks.indd 5dailytalks.indd 5 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  17. 17. 6 Friday: Temple of the Holy Spirit Scripture: Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? —1 corinthians 6:19 Prayer Starter: Father, I do know, but I forget sometimes that my heart and body are the building You live in. Help me to keep it clean and strong and fit forYou to fill and use asYou desire forYour kingdom. Prayer Closer: Lord, I left the door to Your temple open today and some dust and dirt got in through my selfishness. The foundation got a little shaky, too, because I neglected to pray and strengthen myself in Your Word. I love You, Lord. Help me to protect Your temple in a way that’s honoring to You. Saturday: Pray in the Holy Spirit Scripture: But you, dear friends, by building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit keep yourselves in God’s love…. —jude 1:20–21 Prayer Starter: Holy Spirit, my prayers feel so dry and ineffective without You. Please come and fill me up; give me words; allow me to pray what is on Your heart today to cause Your kingdom to come on earth as it is in heaven. Prayer Closer: Lord, thank You for the prayers prayed all over the world today that You have heard and will lovingly answer in Your per- fect time and Your perfect way. dailytalks.indd 6dailytalks.indd 6 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  18. 18. 7 PRAYING WITH JESUS: Week 2 Praying an Affirmation of Love SCRIPTURE: Matthew 3:13–17 KEY VERSE:And a voice from heaven said, “This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” —matthew 3:17 ENTERING THE SCRIPTURES After hearing the preaching of John the Baptist we are longing to meet the One Who can help us learn to pray with power. But we have so many unanswered questions and misgivings. How can we, weak and wayward as we are, ever be worthy of whispering even the smallest, tiniest prayer to the kind of mighty savior John proclaims? Suddenly the crowd parts on the riverbank and there stands a traveler in dusty clothes. Someone whispers that the man’s name is Jesus of Nazareth. “I’ve come from Galilee to be baptized,” Jesus says. John’s jaw drops, and he falls to his knees on the river rocks and stares at the strap of Jesus’ sandal. “No, I can’t possibly do that!” he says. “I’m so unworthy. I’m the one who needs to be baptized by you!” Jesus extends his hand and pulls John to his feet, saying, “Let it be so for now. I want to fulfill all righteousness.” John nods his head like a man in a trance, and the only sound in the hushed crowd is the slosh of water as the two men step out into the river. Jesus leans back onto the strong arm of John. The Nazarene disappears for a moment, and then he reappears, drenched. Although the sky is cloudless, its cobalt-blue depths seem to di- vide to allow a light more focused than a sunbeam to descend toward the water. The light moves with the grace and sureness of a bird with outstretched wings riding an unseen current down toward the riverbank. The wide-eyed child next to us asks, “Mommy, why did that pretty dove fly down onto that man and where did it go?” Before the woman can issue a “shush,” an unmistakable voice peals across dailytalks.indd 7dailytalks.indd 7 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  19. 19. 8 the river valley. “This is my Son, Whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” Our astonished eyes are glued to Jesus, radiant as He walks out of the water, following this supernatural affirmation. Oh, how we long for the same sort of affirmation! Suddenly we freeze, realizing that Jesus will pass right by us as He climbs the rocks onto the shore. We begin to panic, afraid to let our eyes meet His lest He see how unworthy we are and turn away from us in disgust. But before we can bury our gaze on the rocks, His eyes find ours and beam with a warm, loving acceptance. As He passes by, we are overwhelmed, thinking, How can this be? Could He really accept me as I am? It is the gospel truth to declare that Jesus loves each of us in the same definitive-voice-from-heaven way that the Father loves Him. Jesus spells this out in no uncertain terms in John 15:9 when he be- stows this personal affirmation on us: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.” By putting these two verses together—Matthew 3:17—“This is my son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased”—and John 15:9— “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you”—Jesus creates for us the empowerment we need for prayer. If our prelude to pray- er is our unworthiness, our entry point into prayer must be God’s love and acceptance. Love spectacularly changes the entire atmos- phere of prayer. If we revisit the unworthiness we first felt in the presence of Jesus, we understand that although we aren’t deserving of the affection of Jesus, we need not fear. We can pray not because we love Him, but rather because He first loved us. (I John 4:19) And perfect love casts out all fear. (1 John 4:18) The love of Jesus not only makes prayer possible but makes it safe, healing and life-giving as well. There is not a single state of life, mind or spirit in which we can enter prayer that can override this love. We can enter prayer battered by wounds, scars, anguish, oppression, bitterness and utter disappointment. We can crawl into prayer with embarrassment and sorrow after having fallen into temp- tation and wandering off our own way for years on end. We can even peek into the doorway of prayer feeling we have done something so dailytalks.indd 8dailytalks.indd 8 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  20. 20. 9 horrible that it’s totally unforgiveable. But this fact remains immov- able forever: We are enabled to pray in all personal circumstances simply because Jesus loves us. PRAYING THE SCRIPTURES A friend of mine who was suffering from depression told me that she could believe on a factual level that God loved her because it says in the Bible that God loves the whole world. But she grasped this in a very general, far-off way, seeing herself more like a face in the crowd rather than as an individual worthy of love. As you pray this week, use Matthew 3:17 to ask Jesus to help you understand down in the depths of your soul how these words of loving accept- ance specifically apply to you. Do you dare to believe that God calls you His own child? Can you allow yourself to know that He loves you? Will you be open to the possibility that He is pleased with you? Pray today to receive His affirmation of love. dailytalks.indd 9dailytalks.indd 9 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  21. 21. 10 Week 2: Love Sunday: Abounding in Love Scripture: You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you. —psalm 86:5 Prayer Starter: Father, I call to You, knowing that You love our time together even more than I do. Help me be content to talk less and listen more, to rest in Your presence and soak up Your inexhaustible love. Prayer Closer: Father, my friend _____________________ desper- ately needs to understand Your amazing love for him/her. Remind me of that every day and show me how to reveal that love through my words and actions. Monday: Unfailing Love Scripture: Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfail- ing love. —psalm 6:4 Prayer Starter: God, thank You for the security of life lived in You. Your love is a fortress that protects me from the pain of unkind words, of rejection, of my own selfish mistakes. Help me to hide in Your un- failing love as I walk through the hustle and bustle of life today. Help me be a safe and steady hiding place for others. Prayer Closer: Lord, I pray for all those who are doubting You today and just aren’t sure You really care. I pray that You would reveal Your- self to them with a sweet demonstration of Your faithful love that cannot be denied. Tuesday: Redeeming Love Scripture: Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.” —galatians 3:13 dailytalks.indd 10dailytalks.indd 10 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  22. 22. 11 Prayer Starter: Jesus, it is unthinkable that You, the perfect Lamb of God, became a curse to redeem undeserving mankind, undeserv- ing me. Thank You for taking my life, for changing it from what it was and keeping it from becoming what it would have been without You. I love You, Lord. Prayer Closer: Lord, I lift all those who follow after You and yet still seem powerless to overcome temptations. Strengthen them with Your Word and give them power to break the chains of sin and darkness in their lives. Wednesday: Covenant Love Scripture: Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. —deuteronomy 7:9 Prayer Starter: Sometimes, Lord, I’m guilty of following You out of a sense of obligation, of following the rules to avoid punishment. Help me to understand what it means to walk in covenant love like You do, Lord. Help me choose to obey You because I love You and want to please You, not just to get it right. Prayer Closer: Father, so many people are desperately looking for love, and so many are looking in all the wrong places. I pray that even in those places they would find You, the One for Whom their hearts are longing. Thursday: Abiding Love Scripture: If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. —john 15:10 (nkjv) Prayer Starter: What is it, Lord, about our human hearts that are prone to wander as the old hymn says? In the busyness of my day today, bind my heart to You, Jesus. dailytalks.indd 11dailytalks.indd 11 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  23. 23. 12 Prayer Closer: When I think of someone who abides in You, Lord, I think of ___________________. Bless him/her with a sense of Your nearness today, Lord. Let the peace and humility that flows from him/her draw others to You. Friday: Enduring Love Scripture: Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. —1 chronicles 16:34 Prayer Starter: Forever is a long time, Lord, yet that’s how long Your love endures. Be with those of us who fear doing something that will cause You to withdraw Your love. Help us rest in the fact that Your love will never end. Prayer Closer: I have to confess, Lord, that I’m so not like You. For- give me, Lord, for being so quick to withdraw my love or to put up walls when others hurt or disappoint me. I want to be like You, Lord. I want others to know my love is unconditional, not based on their performance. Saturday: Sacrificial Love Scripture: This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. —1 john 4:10 Prayer Starter: Jesus, I owed a debt for my sins, but You paid it on the Cross with Your life. Help me to realize that the few times I give up my time or money or possessions for others isn’t a sacrifice at all compared to what You gave up for me. Let me give of myself to others today without holding back. Prayer Closer: Lord, looking back on this week and all the as- pects of Your love, how could I ever doubt that You truly are love? Thank You for showing so clearly in Your Word the reality of Who You are. Let all who know You freely give the love we so freely receive from You. dailytalks.indd 12dailytalks.indd 12 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  24. 24. 13 PRAYING WITH JESUS: Week 3 Led by the Spirit in Prayer SCRIPTURE: Matthew 4:1–2; Luke 4:1–2 KEY VERSE: Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert. . . . —luke 4:1 ENTERING THE SCRIPTURES The day begins pleasantly enough as we follow Jesus on a caravan route down the eastern side of the Jordan Valley, where there are shade trees to cool us and pools of water to quench our thirst. Then things change rapidly as Jesus veers off the well-traveled roadway onto a faint path that looks more like a ram’s trail than a footpath. Soon, even the indistinct animal pathway vanishes as the landscape abruptly changes to the rocky terrain of the wilderness. We think we might be heading into the bleak Valley of Shittim, but it’s hard to get our bearings where our only landmarks are flat plateaus of rock that look like tall stacks of unleavened bread. The only way to tell the time of day is by looking at the direction of the inky shadows cast by the ankle-size rocks littering the ground. Why on earth is Jesus traveling to this godforsaken place im- mediately after being proclaimed God’s beloved Son with such sky- splitting drama? If a voice had blessed us by thundering down from heaven saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17), we would have lingered as long as possible, feeling empowered and energized and basking in the joy and wonder of it all. And yet Jesus has left behind every adoring eyewitness on the banks of the Jordan; Jesus has turned His back on a huge opportunity, and we’re eager to learn what greater power could have set Him off on this strange excursion to nowhere. At last Jesus stops. He surveys the vacant horizon in all directions, seeing only the razor edge of flat rocks meeting dry blue sky. Then He sits down and adjusts His head scarf over His sweaty forehead and dailytalks.indd 13dailytalks.indd 13 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  25. 25. 14 closes His eyes to pray. The unrelenting sun lowers and then sets, yet Jesus makes no move to end His prayers. He takes no notice of His empty stomach or His thirst. Morning and evening, day after day, Jesus remains there praying—for forty days and nights. During the long empty hours we have time to wonder why Jesus would need even a single hour of prayer before launching out on His mission. After all, Jesus has already spent thirty years of His life in ob- scurity preparing for His ministry. Does He really need another forty days to pray over His calling? We know very little about what Jesus did during those years. The only real glimpse we’ve had of Him is as a twelve-year-old boy journeying to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. It’s reported that young Jesus showed such amazing understanding of God and the Scriptures that He astounded the rabbis teaching in the temple courts. (See Luke 2:46–49.) We can guess that as He grew into adulthood Jesus spent many a day observing the best and the worst of what religious leaders do.And as a carpenter Jesus had the daily opportunity to meditate, pray and think for hours on end while His hands were busy cutting and honing boards. And we might even go so far as to suppose that Jesus knew without a shadow of a doubt Who He was and why He had been sent into the world, based on the way He confidently opens the scroll in the syna- gogue in Nazareth and reads Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.” (Isaiah 61:1–2; See also Luke 4:18–19.) We squirm realizing that we find spending a mere thirty minutes in prayerful preparation quite daunting. We compare this to the thirty years that Jesus has spent, and we imagine that Jesus is the most “prayed up” person Who ever lived. Yet Jesus withdraws into the de- sert because He still needs more prayer! Jesus prays audibly, and we overhear him say, “Thank You, Holy Spirit, for leading me out here into the wilderness to pray.” We are perplexed. Apparently Jesus didn’t decide to come out for this mara- thon prayer session; Jesus was led out here to pray by the Holy Spirit! From Jesus’ astonishing example we learn our first formal prayer lesson—the importance of following calls to pray under the leadership dailytalks.indd 14dailytalks.indd 14 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  26. 26. 15 of God’s Holy Spirit. How often have we entered and left prayer led only by our needs, fears and problems? Of course, God cares about the things we need, like food and safety, but if we pray only about these temporary things, we could be missing what is truly needful. Jesus didn’t rely on human reason, which would have assured Him that thirty years of prayer was more than enough. Jesus was not only full of the Holy Spirit, but He was also led by the Holy Spirit. He obeyed the Spirit’s call. To pray with Jesus today we must simply decide that when and where the Spirit leads us to pray, we will follow. PRAYING THE SCRIPTURES Meditate on the ways you can use the leadership of the Holy Spirit in prayer. Identify how you might have been attempting to be your own leader. Then examine something you’ve been praying about for a long time and ask Jesus for the leadership of the Holy Spirit on how, when, where and what to pray about it today. dailytalks.indd 15dailytalks.indd 15 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  27. 27. 16 Week 3: You Lead Me Sunday: Lead Me to You Scripture: In your unfailing love you will lead the people you have redeemed. In your strength you will guide them to your holy dwelling. —exodus 15:13 Prayer Starter: Lord God, I thank You so much that I am among those redeemed by the blood of the Lamb to enjoy a relationship with You. Lead me to the place of Your holy presence today and every day. Prayer Closer: Jesus, my friend _____________________ is really struggling. He/she needs Your strength and needs to be reminded of Your commitment to lead and guide through this difficult situation. Please show Yourself to him/her in new, unmistakable ways. Monday: Lead Me in Righteousness Scripture: I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. —proverbs 4:11 Prayer Starter: Father, life can be so overwhelming and confusing. It’s hard to know what to do about so many things. Today, for every situation and every decision, I choose to trust and rest in Your prom- ise to guide and give me wisdom. Prayer Closer: Lord, I pray that You would be with all who are para- lyzed by fear and confusion and don’t know which way to go. Lead them along straight paths and give them peace. Tuesday: Lead Me to Love Scripture: “Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her.” —hosea 2:14 Prayer Starter: Lord, lead me out of the busyness and noise of daily life to listen to Your loving voice. Increase my longing for You. I come dailytalks.indd 16dailytalks.indd 16 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  28. 28. 17 to You to hear the words of love that You speak in the quietness of my heart. Prayer Closer: God, my friend ______________________ is so busy and distracted he/she can’t hear You calling him/her to Yourself. In Your kindness, Lord, speak just a little louder than the things that compete for his/her attention, so he/she can respond to Your tender, loving words. Wednesday: Lead Me to Purity Scripture: Lead us not into temptation. —luke 11:4 Prayer Starter: God, Your heart is so big for each of us to be strong in You, to make right choices, to resist sin and its temptations. Strengthen all who are tempted to find satisfaction today in ways that are destructive to themselves and those they love. Help them to find their satisfaction in You. Prayer Closer: I thank You, God, that You aren’t a Father Who tests His children to see how we measure up to some unattainable stan- dard. Thank You for Your commitment to help Your children walk in righteousness and purity. We can’t do it without You, Father. Thursday: Lead Me to Your Comfort Scripture: “For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shep- herd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” —revelation 7:17 Prayer Starter: So often, Lord, we take our heartaches and tears to others who can offer only temporary comfort. But someday, all who are Yours will stand before Your throne and You’ll wipe away every tear from every eye for all eternity. Lord, I’m so looking forward to that day. Prayer Closer: Lord, give me words to comfort someone who is hurting today. But more importantly, remind me to share the hope I have of eternal comfort in Your presence. dailytalks.indd 17dailytalks.indd 17 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  29. 29. 18 Friday: Lead Me to Your Light Scripture: I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. —isaiah 42:16 Prayer Starter: Oh, God, the future seems so uncertain for so many people in so many areas of life. I thank You, Father, that we can be certain there is no uncertainty in You. Today, I choose to trust You with my present and my future. Prayer Closer: Father, even family and friends Who know You are finding themselves afraid of the unknowns they are facing. Fill them with faith, God, that You will light their way in the darkness. Saturday: Lead Me in Weakness Scripture: From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. —psalm 61:2 Prayer Starter: As I call to You, God—reminding myself that You are my rock, my strength, my stability—my heart no longer feels faint. Thank You for turning my fear into confidence. Prayer Closer: Strengthen those who have called out to You today, God. dailytalks.indd 18dailytalks.indd 18 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  30. 30. 19 PRAYING WITH JESUS: Week 4 Human Reasoning and Prayer SCRIPTURE: Luke 4:1–13 KEY VERSE: He (Jesus) ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” —luke 4:2–3 ENTERING THE SCRIPTURES We’ve been with Jesus for forty days and forty nights out here in the desert, observing him fast and pray, and we’re sure He must be starving. We rub our tired, gritty eyes, and when we open them we are startled to see a figure standing over Jesus. We can’t fathom how this stranger could have arrived without our seeing him approach because we can see for miles in every direction in this uninhabited moonscape. At first we mistake the stranger for a Roman warrior because of his haughty, intimidating stance. His arms are bare and flexed, show- ing off his bulging muscles. His face looks like chiseled stone, and the shadow he casts is immense. The stranger picks up a boulder the size of a man’s head with one hand and easily tosses it down to Jesus as if it were a wad of wool left over from sheep shearing. “If you are the Son of God,” the stranger says, “tell this stone to become bread.” (Luke 4:3) The questioning inflection of the word If makes our hearts freeze. Could this be the devil himself? We’re confused because the stranger’s point makes sense. We stare at the rock lying in front of Jesus, trying hard not to imagine the rough dry exterior as the crisp crust on bread. Over the last week we’ve been worried about Jesus’ physical well-being; you can’t begin a ministry if you’re run down from starvation. But Jesus answers firmly, “Man does not live by bread alone.” (Luke 4:4) Although we haven’t moved a muscle, we find ourselves on a mountaintop overlooking a magnificent city that stretches beyond dailytalks.indd 19dailytalks.indd 19 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  31. 31. 20 the horizon. We see marble palaces and streets that are bustling with merchants’ carts filled with exotic goods. Legions of soldiers thun- der by in chariots as their bronze armor gleams in the sunlight. The stranger says, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.” (Luke 4:6–7) The beautiful city is mesmerizing, and it certainly doesn’t look evil. In fact, it looks like the kind of life we’ve always wanted. We’ve learned that if we want success, status and money, we’ll need to work with “the powers that be.” We wouldn’t exactly call it “worshipping” those powers; it’s simply doing what it takes to get ahead. Jesus, how- ever, uses a very different set of eyes than ours and answers, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” (Luke 4:8) In a twinkling of an eye, we’re standing with Jesus and the stran- ger on the highest point of the temple in Jerusalem. Our stomach feels a bit queasy because of the height. The stranger says, “If you are the son of God, throw yourself down from here. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” (Luke 4:9–11) The idea of jumping off the parapet so angels will catch Him seems a little extreme, but it might not be a bad idea to perform some sort of definitive sign that will impress the religious leaders. Starting Jesus’ ministry here in the temple would be the obvious choice because this is the center of worship for all the faithful. And besides, there’s actually a Scripture that seems to back up the idea. But Jesus disregards all this and rebukes the stranger by saying, “It says: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Luke 4:12) As soon as Jesus says this, the stranger disappears. This Scripture passage offers us a rare glimpse into the thinking process of Jesus as He prayed through His mission in the desert. The stranger’s suggestions, on the other hand, give us a chilling glimpse into the devil’s intimate knowledge of how our minds work. The devil knows all the palate-pleasing combinations of independ- ence, self-reliance, human reasoning, logic and rationalization our dailytalks.indd 20dailytalks.indd 20 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  32. 32. 21 minds can cook up. Interestingly enough, the devil himself was thrown out of heaven for declaring his independence from God. (See Luke 10:18; Isaiah 14:12–15) Perhaps it isn’t the devil who is so good at thinking like us; maybe we are very good at thinking like the devil. Every time we pray, a battle goes on in our minds between two ways of thinking—human logic and spiritual discernment. Isaiah tells us, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9) During each step of our journey with Jesus we’ll learn how essential prayer is in renewing our minds and strengthening our ability to see the spiritual world more clearly. PRAYING THE SCRIPTURES Consider a personal prayer request that’s very important to you to- day and meditate on whether you are using human logic or allowing God to grant you deeper spiritual knowledge and discernment as you pray. Are you holding too tightly to a specific way you think things will work out? Or are you allowing yourself to lose hope because there doesn’t seem to be a logical solution? Acknowledge your de- pendence on God and ask for His wisdom in prayer as you continue to seek His help. dailytalks.indd 21dailytalks.indd 21 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  33. 33. 22 Week 4: Wisdom Sunday: Ask for Wisdom Scripture: If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. —james 1:5 Prayer Starter: Father God, I have ________________ on my mind and in my heart today, but I don’t know how to pray for him/her. You know his/her deepest need and I ask that You would give me the right words to pray. Prayer Closer: It is so satisfying to know, Lord, that my prayers don’t have to be scattered and random, but that You give them direc- tion and purpose. Thank You for giving me prayers to pray today, and for answering each one. Monday: Spirit of Wisdom Scripture: I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. —ephesians 1:17 Prayer Starter: Lord, receiving a revelation from You is exciting; having wisdom to know what to do and say in every situation would be wonderful, but to know You better, that is my ultimate goal. How wonderful to know that is Your desire as well, Father. Prayer Closer: Mighty God, please showYourself to all who are seeking to know You better today. Please be real, be powerful, be all we need. Tuesday: Treasure of Wisdom Scripture: He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure. —isaiah 33:6 dailytalks.indd 22dailytalks.indd 22 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  34. 34. 23 Prayer Starter: Lord Jesus, give me this treasure of fearing You today. Help me live to do what You love and not to do the things You hate, which only hurt myself and others. Prayer Closer: Lord, be ___________________________’s sure foundation as he/she walks in uncertainty today. Wednesday: Wisdom from Heaven Scripture: But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. —james 3:17 Prayer Starter: Father, I know that the conflicts and unforgiveness that are dividing our family hurt Your heart. Help us all seek wisdom that comes from heaven. Help us be willing to do whatever it takes to restore the love and unity to our family. Prayer Closer: Lord, the main source of this conflict in our fam- ily seems to be _______________________________. I pray that You will bring healing to his/her heart. Help him/her see the dam- age being done and strengthen him/her to lead the way to unity among us. Thursday: Beginning of Wisdom Scripture: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowl- edge of the Holy One is understanding. —proverbs 9:10 Prayer Starter: Lord, I pray today for those who have lost their way and are struggling through life without You. Teach them to fear You, God. Make them hungry to know You. Answer quickly when they call to You, Lord. Prayer Closer: Father, getting to know You seems like an unattain- able goal. Yet I believe that You long to be known by all people. Would You please teach me something new about Yourself today? dailytalks.indd 23dailytalks.indd 23 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  35. 35. 24 Friday: Wisdom Within Scripture: Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place. —psalm 51:6 Prayer Starter: Holy Spirit, please come. Show me the truth about the things I hold inside. Purify my heart with Your Word and Your truth. Prayer Closer: Lord, I asked You to show me my heart today, but then I realized that I never sat still and listened long enough for You to do that. Speak to me now, Lord, as I wait on You. Set me free with Your truth. Saturday: Wisdom Is God’s Scripture: “To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and under- standing are his.” —job 12:13 Prayer Starter: Lord, I often run to others for advice and wisdom. Why do I do that, Lord, when You are the source of all wisdom and understanding? Help me always come to You first and then others if that’s how You lead. Prayer Closer: Lord, I need wisdom for what to do about ________________________. My attempts to fix that situation haven’t worked. Show me the key to unlocking this problem, Lord, and give me the courage to use it. dailytalks.indd 24dailytalks.indd 24 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  36. 36. 25 PRAYING WITH JESUS: Week 5 Intimately Known in Prayer SCRIPTURE: John 1:44–51 KEY VERSE: “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.” —john 1:50 ENTERING THE SCRIPTURES We’re sitting under a fig tree in Galilee with a man named Nathaniel. Sitting idly in the shade is certainly not typical behavior in this ancient agrarian area, where every minute of daylight means food on the table. There are fields that need plowing, planting and harvesting several times a year for the wheat and barley crops made possible by the mild climate. There is manure to haul from the pas- ture to dig around the roots of the fig and olive trees to increase the fruit harvest. There are repairs to be made in the tile roof before the next rainy season, and the plowshare needs sharpening. Yet Nathaniel sits under the fig tree with a far-off look in his eye. Everyone likes Nathaniel because he’s a genuinely good per- son. He’s very intelligent, and it shows in his bumper crop of figs and barley. Everyone says that Nathaniel is set for life on his well- kept plot of land. That’s why every father in the village would love to see his daughter married to a man of such impeccable charac- ter—he’s religious, dutiful, courteous, kind, and his word is as good as the gold in the temple treasury. Nathaniel seems to be lost in thought. He sighs, and there’s something in his sigh that sounds as if he’s feeling restless and un- fulfilled. It’s hard to find anyone around here who’s interested in the kinds of challenging issues Nathaniel likes to discuss, such as what Isaiah meant when he said, “This is the one I esteem: he who is hum- ble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.” (Isaiah 66:2) Is Nathaniel too much of an idealist and a dreamer for anyone to really appreciate him? dailytalks.indd 25dailytalks.indd 25 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  37. 37. 26 At last, Nathaniel reluctantly leaves the shade of the fig tree and heads toward the plowshare he left in the nearby field. As he in- spects the plowshare, someone hurries up to greet him; it’s his friend Philip. Philip is usually a very practical person who thinks things out in detail. But today he acts very much out of character by grabbing Nathaniel by the tunic and blurting out, “We have found the One Moses talked about! He is Jesus of Nazareth.” At first Nathaniel thinks it’s a joke, and a bad one at that. He shakes his head and says, “Philip, you’ve got to be kidding. No great teacher has ever come out of that little place in the middle of nowhere.” Philip doesn’t give up. “No, I’m not kidding. Jesus is real. He’s the kind of person you’d really like to talk to. At least come and see for yourself.” Nathaniel pretends to humor Philip as they take off down the dusty pathway toward the village. Finally they come upon a small crowd of people encircling this fellow Jesus. The minute Nathaniel steps into the presence of Jesus, their eyes lock and Jesus stops in the middle of the story he’s telling. Then Jesus says, “Here is a true Israelite in whom there is nothing false.” Nathaniel is confused. He glances at Philip to see if this is a setup. Has Philip told Jesus something about him? But Philip’s face shows utter astonishment. Confused, Nathaniel stammers, “How do you know me?” Jesus answers, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Sweat breaks out on the back of Nathaniel’s neck because he is absolutely sure that not a soul saw him under the fig tree earlier. Surely there is only One Who knows men’s inner thoughts. In utter astonishment, Nathaniel declares to this ordinary-looking man standing in front of him, “You are the Son of God and the King of Israel!” Jesus smiles and says, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.” (John 1:50) Jesus doesn’t have to heal the blind or walk on water for Nathaniel to believe. Without a shadow of a doubt, he declares on the spot that dailytalks.indd 26dailytalks.indd 26 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  38. 38. 27 Jesus is the Son of God. And what proved this to Nathaniel with such split-second certainty? Jesus knew him—personally, intimately— before they’d even met. Jesus knew his past. He knew his heart. He knew his strengths and weaknesses—everything, right away, before Nathaniel said a single word. This incident sets Christian prayer above all other religious experiences because during prayer we are meeting the One Who knows our hearts and filters what He sees through the eyes of love. Jesus didn’t display His intimate knowledge of Nathaniel by ex- posing his secret sins. On the contrary, Jesus spoke a loving and compelling word to Nathaniel by commending the most beautiful quality of his heart. And there’s more! Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:51) Jesus tells us that this intimate relationship is a two-way street. As deeply as Jesus knows us, so we in turn can begin to know Him. Eventually we will be privileged to see Jesus in His glory with angels ascending and descending on Him! And in the meantime, we can enjoy the intimacy of the heavenly feeling of being known thoroughly right here on earth. PRAYING THE SCRIPTURES Think about how wonderful it is that prayer is based on a very intim- ate, personal relationship with God. Choose one thing about you that no one else knows about and talk with God about it. Then accept God’s gracious ability to see past it because He has known about it all along. dailytalks.indd 27dailytalks.indd 27 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  39. 39. 28 Week 5: Prayer Sunday: Seeking Prayer Scripture: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” —jeremiah 29:11–13 Prayer Starter: Father, I confess that my seeking You cannot be described as seeking You with all my heart. Would You increase my desire for You? Father, please help me long for You above so many other longings in my heart. Prayer Closer: Lord, the more I think about seeking You with all my heart, the more I realize that I’m not really sure what that looks like. Does that mean spending more time in prayer? Or reading the Bible? Or reading books about You? Show me how to seek You with my whole heart. Monday: Pray with Favor Scripture: But I pray to you, Lord, in the time of your favor; in your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation. —psalm 69:13 Prayer Starter: God, Your love is the foundation for my every prayer because I’m so sure of Your love for me and all people; I know You will answer. Prayer Closer: Lord, I’ve been praying for ____________________ for so long, I’m sometimes tempted to stop and give up hope that You will answer. But I choose today to pray for him/her again, believing that You hear my prayers. Tuesday: Pray in Secret Scripture: But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. —matthew 6:6 dailytalks.indd 28dailytalks.indd 28 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  40. 40. 29 Prayer Starter: Father in heaven, show me my heart and my mo- tives. Do I pray to be heard by others and seen as a spiritual giant? Please remove any trace of that in me, Lord, and let my prayers come straight from Your heart to mine. Prayer Closer: Lord, I lift before You praying Christians everywhere. Help them to pray the right prayers for the right reasons and let those prayers bear much fruit for Your kingdom. Wednesday: The Spirit Prays for You Scripture: In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. —romans 8:26 Prayer Starter: Lord, it’s reassuring to know that when we can’t find the right words, groans are prayers too. My heart is groaning for __________________________ today, Lord. Answer that prayer that is too deep for words. Prayer Closer: I heard some good news today, God, that makes me know You moved on ________________________’s behalf. Thank You so much. Thursday: Pray for Your Enemies Scripture: “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” —luke 6:27–28 Prayer Starter: Father, I don’t think I have a long list of enemies or peo- ple who hate me, but I do know that _____________________ doesn’t care for me that much. I ask Your blessing and favor on him/her today, God. I even ask that, with Your help, we could become good friends. Prayer Closer: I just want to sit with You, Jesus, and think about what it must feel like to be truly hated and have enemies who want to kill me. I’m sure I can’t even imagine it. I can’t imagine, either, that You chose to leave heaven and came to earth knowing that is dailytalks.indd 29dailytalks.indd 29 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  41. 41. 30 what awaited You. I’ll never understand love like that, Jesus. All I can do is thank You. Friday: Pray for the Sick Scripture: Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. —james 5:14 Prayer Starter: Father, my prayer list suddenly seems full of people with serious health issues. I pray for each one today, Lord. You know who they are. Please let Your healing love and power flow over them to meet every emotional, physical and spiritual need. Prayer Closer: Lord, I pray today especially for children who are facing life-threatening illnesses. Draw them to Yourself, Father, to receive comfort, healing and saving faith in You. Saturday: Pray for Nations Scripture: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” —2 chronicles 7:14 Prayer Starter: Oh, God, forgive our nation for our failure to live up to the best that is in us and cling to Your Word. Heal our land. Prayer Closer: I pray, Lord, that You would bless men and women of faith who are in positions of leadership in our nation. Give them wisdom, resources and favor. dailytalks.indd 30dailytalks.indd 30 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  42. 42. 31 PRAYING WITH JESUS: Week 6 Prayer and God’s Good Planning SCRIPTURE: John 2:1–11 KEY VERSE: His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” —john 2:5 ENTERING THE SCRIPTURES We’re in Cana at a wedding feast, and everyone in the village has been celebrating with the bride’s family for several days now. The master of the feast makes his way over to shake our hands and asks if we’d like more raisin cakes. We decline but tell him we could use a little more wine. His face flushes and he hastily says that he’ll have a servant at- tend to us. Thirty minutes pass and the servant never appears. We think this odd until we overhear another guest, Mary, the mother of Jesus, tell her son, “They have no more wine.” Our eyes travel to the young groom, dressed for the wedding like a king in a colorful silken sash. Because the bride and groom’s families are of modest means, there’s a garland of flowers around his head instead of a more costly metal crown, but his face is anointed with oil and shining with happiness. How will he feel when he finds out about this? Adding to the trouble is the fact that wine isn’t something we can whip up at a moment’s notice like another batch of raisin cakes. Mak- ing wine is an arduous process that takes time, persistence, patience and planning. Even if the servants started right now, there wouldn’t be more wine until the bride and groom were welcoming their first child into the world! This is mortifying, a total social embarrassment. Soon the whole community will know that the hosts haven’t planned well enough for the wedding feast. We step a little closer to Mary and Jesus, hoping Jesus will be able to do something to remedy the situation. Jesus replies, “Dear woman, why do you involve me? My time has not yet come.” (John 2:4) dailytalks.indd 31dailytalks.indd 31 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  43. 43. 32 Jesus believes that God has a very precisely planned timetable for His ministry. He is apparently determined to follow God’s plan step-by-step. Based on Jesus’ reply, we’re surprised to see Mary pulling the servants aside and whispering, “Do whatever Jesus tells you.” We im- agine that her mother’s intuition is telling her that Jesus has some- thing in mind, even though she’s not sure what it is. Suddenly Jesus instructs the servants to fill the six huge stone jars to the brim with water. Although this seems to have no connec- tion to the problem at hand, the servants obey. Bucket after bucket, footstep after footstep, to the well and back, they slowly fill up the jars. When they’re done, Jesus tells them to draw some water out of the jars and take it to the master of the feast. They silently draw the water from the jar without questioning. When the master of the feast tastes the water he proclaims it to be much finer wine than what was originally served to the guests. Very few guests at the wedding know that Jesus has performed the miracle of compressing the yearlong, step-by-step process of winemaking into the time it takes to carry a dipper of water from one end of a courtyard to the other! Because the servants obey Jesus’ in- structions, the wedding feast goes on with uninterrupted merriment and joy. Without availing ourselves of the grace of prayer, we all are des- tined to be the embarrassed hosts who fail to adequately plan ahead. Fortunately, prayer gives us the opportunity to become the servants who do what Jesus says, believing that whatever He has planned is good and that it will work if only we take the step we’re told to take today. One of the great gifts of human intellect is our ability to plan ahead. When we offer this ability to God through prayer, God is able to empower us to accomplish things we couldn’t possibly achieve on our own. However, God usually unfolds His biggest and most glori- ous plans one simple step at a time over a long period, something like the winemaking process. More often than not, we don’t receive further instructions until we take the step in front of us, as with the servants when they obediently filled the stone jars with water. There’s dailytalks.indd 32dailytalks.indd 32 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  44. 44. 33 an old saying, “Failure to plan is planning to fail.” But in faith, we can change that saying into a formula for success that will take us to new heights: “Failure to pray for the next step in God’s plan is planning to fail in advancing God’s kingdom.” PRAYING THE SCRIPTURES Consider something significant that you’ve been planning for quite some time. If you find an embarrassing failure to plan ahead, admit your lack of planning to God. Just as Jesus accelerated the wine- making process, ask Him to apply His restoring power to speed up the process of getting back on the right track. On the other hand, you may feel discouraged because working toward your goal is a long, tedious process. Pray for supernatural per- sistence to await the seasons like winemakers. And finally, if you find that you’ve planned well but have left prayer and God’s direction out of the process, ask God to show you the next small step in His direction that you need to take today. Then take that next step, using the simple, unquestioning faith with which the servants obeyed Jesus. dailytalks.indd 33dailytalks.indd 33 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  45. 45. 34 Week 6: Faith Sunday: Faith with Joy Scripture: And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. —hebrews 12:1–2 Prayer Starter: Lord Jesus, I’ll admit my eyes are too often fixed on the struggles of life or on what I’m afraid will happen, rather than on You. Remind me daily of the joy that is to come with You in heaven, and help me endure each cross you call me to carry until then. Prayer Closer: God, this verse reminds me that You started my re- lationship with You and, in spite of how often I know I fall short, You will perfect it. I so look forward to that day, Father! Monday: Healing Faith Scripture: Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.”And the woman was healed from that moment. —matthew 9:22 Prayer Starter: Lord Jesus, I can imagine that the moment You turn and look at me would be even more wonderful and life-changing than being healed. Let me always seek Your gaze, Lord. Prayer Closer: I don’t understand, Jesus. Some people seem to have faith for healing and are healed, but others seem to have faith and aren’t healed. Help us all trust You and Your goodness, God, even when we don’t understand. Tuesday: Lack of Faith Scripture: He did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith. —matthew 13:58 dailytalks.indd 34dailytalks.indd 34 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  46. 46. 35 Prayer Starter: It is such a sobering thought, Lord Jesus, that our lack of faith can tie Your powerful hands. Please God, wake up our faith and help believers everywhere believe and expect You to do mighty things for Your kingdom’s sake. Prayer Closer: Father, I rejoice with ___________________ today for the miracles You’ve done. Wednesday: Saving Faith Scripture: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. —ephesians 2:8–9 Prayer Starter: Forgive me, Lord, if I’ve ever thought I could earn my salvation, after You’ve paid with Your life to give it by faith as a gift. I receive it gratefully, Lord. Prayer Closer: Lord, only You know the believers who are working to earn their salvation. I pray You will deliver all Your children from the exhaustion of trying to earn favor with You. Thursday: Full of Faith Scripture: And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. —acts 6:8 (nkjv) Prayer Starter: Dear God, sometimes I don’t feel full of faith or power. In spite of how I feel, Lord, I pray that by Your Holy Spirit, You would do great signs and wonders through me. Prayer Closer: Lord, I pray You will fill believers with Your faith and power so that unbelievers will see and believe. Friday: Faith by Hearing Scripture: Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. —romans 10:17 dailytalks.indd 35dailytalks.indd 35 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  47. 47. 36 Prayer Starter: Father, I pray today for all missionaries who have committed their lives to taking Your Word to the world. Give each one the exact life-giving words he/she needs the moment he/she needs it. Prayer Closer: Lord, my friends ____________________________ have sacrificed so much to serve You in _______________________. Please provide everything they need, physically and spiritually, to continue serving where You’ve called. Saturday: Shield of Faith Scripture: In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. —ephesians 6:16 Prayer Starter: Thank You, God, for reminding me with this Scripture that when my faith is weak, I am vulnerable spiritually. Please, Lord, keep my faith strong and help me to deflect the de- structive lies of the enemy of my soul that I believe all too easily. Prayer Closer: Lord, I pray for Your protection over __________ today. He/she is so downcast and believing the thoughts sent from the enemy that he/she is a failure. Give me words to help strengthen his/her faith to extinguish those lies. dailytalks.indd 36dailytalks.indd 36 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  48. 48. 37 PRAYING WITH JESUS: Week 7 Prayer and Rejection SCRIPTURE: Luke 4:14–30 KEY VERSE: “I tell you the truth,” he continued, “no prophet is accepted in his hometown….” —luke 4:24 ENTERING THE SCRIPTURES Jesus’ ministry has been gathering steam, and He’s becoming well known around the region as an amazing teacher Who can work mir- acles. Word has gotten back to Nazareth, and all of the townsfolk are pleased they’re finally getting their due. But the barley harvest passes and so does the grape harvest, and we start to hear villagers complaining that Jesus ought to come back to town and do a few miracles and healings here too. At last the day comes when Jesus finally visits His boyhood synagogue. We have a hard time finding a seat because the place is so packed with people. We’ve heard plenty of speculation about the remarkable things Jesus might do here in Nazareth. After all, these are His friends, neighbors and kin. If Jesus is doing such great things for strangers, surely He’ll do much more for us! The rabbi hands Jesus the scroll of Isaiah to read. Jesus finds Isaiah 61 and reads, “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor….” (Isaiah 61:1–2) Instead of going on to teach, Jesus sits down and says, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21) At first, everyone is impressed because Jesus has read the Scripture with such ardor. Then someone whispers, “Wait a minute. Who on earth does he think he is? Isn’t he the son of Joseph the carpenter? How could someone like him fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy?” dailytalks.indd 37dailytalks.indd 37 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  49. 49. 38 Although the criticism was whispered, Jesus perceives it and says, “I suppose you’re going to say, ‘Physician, heal thyself.’” A twitter of nervous laughter flutters through the crowd. Jesus goes on, “I also imagine you’re expecting me to do the kinds of healings you heard I did in Capernaum. Unfortunately, no prophet is ever accepted in his own hometown.” A tense silence settles around the room. The older residents set their jaws tightly and cross their arms in disapproval. Someone com- plains in a stage whisper, “Here we’ve invited this kid to speak at the synagogue, and now he’s calling himself a prophet and insulting us all at the same time!” As Jesus’ eyes scan the familiar faces in the crowd, He tries to open our minds to the fact that God’s healing power is not some- thing that’s just for insiders who believe they’re owed special favors from God. He recounts how the ancient prophets were often sent far from home to offer God’s provision and healing. And not everyone got healed or helped, only those whom God chose for his own rea- sons. (See 1 Kings 17:7–16.) Elisha even healed a Syrian of leprosy! (See 2 Kings 5:1–14.) Catcalls begin at the thought that Syrians might get healed or blessed instead of Nazarenes. People start yelling and soon pande- monium breaks out. We’re shocked when several men grab Jesus by the collar of His tunic and hustle Him out of the synagogue. The rabbi hastily rolls up the scroll of Isaiah to keep it from being damaged as the crowd rises to its feet to follow the men dragging out Jesus. Our hearts are hammering as we follow the mob up a nearby hill. In horror we try to tell ourselves that surely they’re not planning to shove Jesus off the steep cliff at the top! Then confusion comes over the crowd, and people start bumping into each other. The men sud- denly lose their grip on Jesus. We see Him turn around and slowly but surely walk right back through the crowd and down the hill with- out anyone from His hometown realizing it. Then Jesus simply keeps walking until Nazareth disappears behind Him on the dusty road. We’re glad that Jesus has gotten away alive, but He certainly isn’t leaving with His reputation intact. Rejection is a horrible experience, dailytalks.indd 38dailytalks.indd 38 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  50. 50. 39 especially when it comes from those we thought were our friends, our brothers and our sisters. The hurt, horror and disbelief don’t go away easily, sometimes not for years—if ever. Because rejection attacks our spirit, prayer is one of the best ways to overcome it. All of the heavenly graces we have discovered so far in prayer—the knowledge that we are loved, accepted, forgiven and known intimately—give us the ability to prayerfully pass through the crowd and walk away from rejection. We have the strength to do this because prayer enables us not only to walk away from rejection but also to walk toward something of much greater value—God’s clearly defined pathway of purpose for our lives. We’re realists, and we certainly aren’t saying that overcoming rejection is a short, simple prayer process. Maybe Jesus is recalling this experience in Nazareth when He sends out His disciples, tell- ing them, “If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town.” (Matthew 10:14) Shaking the dust off of sandals is a physical means of expressing an inner prayer resolve through a symbolic action. Per- haps we won’t have physical dust to shake off our shoes, but we can dust our hands together during prayer to show that we are asking for God’s grace to brush off this experience and go forward. PRAYING THE SCRIPTURES Choose an instance from your life when you’ve felt rejected. Think deeply about the fact that God loves you and accepts you. Then find some small symbolic act you can do to help you separate yourself from the pain and move forward on God’s positive path for your life. dailytalks.indd 39dailytalks.indd 39 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  51. 51. 40 Week 7: You Belong Sunday: To the Truth Scripture: Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us…. —1 john 3:18–20 Prayer Starter: Father, my friend ________________________ is so disappointed in his/her recent wrong choices. I pray that You would set his/her heart at rest in You today. Prayer Closer: Lord, help me not just talk about loving people. Help me to do it. Monday: To God Scripture: But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. —1 peter 2:9 Prayer Starter: Father God, it is a joy to be among those You call Your own. I thank You and praise You for saving me from the darkness and destructiveness of my own choices. Prayer Closer: Lord, I pray that all Who belong to You would be a light in the darkness of selfishness in this world. Use that light, Lord, to draw others to Yourself like moths to a flame. Tuesday: To the Lord Scripture: If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. —romans 14:8 Prayer Starter: Lord, thank You that nothing, in life or in death, can separate from You those who are yours. dailytalks.indd 40dailytalks.indd 40 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  52. 52. 41 Prayer Closer: As You know so well, Jesus, rejection hurts. I pray that every wound of rejection to myself and others would be healed by the one thing that really matters: being accepted by You. Wednesday: To the Body of Christ Scripture: If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not be- long to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. —1 corinthians 12:15 Prayer Starter: Father, even when I’m active and involved in a church, I sometimes feel so disconnected from the body of Christ. I pray that people in local congregations would feel connected, not just by their activities, but in heart and purpose. Prayer Closer: Help those, Lord, who are looking for their place in the body of Christ. Reveal Your purposes and give them opportunities to use their gifts and talents to minister to others. Thursday: To the Day Scripture: For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salva- tion through our Lord Jesus Christ. —1 thessalonians 5:7–9 Prayer Starter: Lord God, I pray that my choices and actions would reflect Your light today. Prayer Closer: God, pour out self-control, hope and faith over ________________ today. Give him/her all he/she needs to walk out of the darkness into Your salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. Friday: To the Lamb Scripture: All inhabitants of the earth will worship the beast—all whose names have not been written in the book of life belonging to the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world.—revelation 13:8 dailytalks.indd 41dailytalks.indd 41 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  53. 53. 42 Prayer Starter: Jesus, Lamb of God, I have a lot to rejoice about, but in this one thing I rejoice the most: that I belong to You, that my name is written in the Lamb’s book of life. I’m so looking forward to spending eternity with You. Prayer Closer: Father, I pray that You would open eyes to the very real spiritual battle that is still raging for the souls of men. Give people a revelation of truth about eternity with You—or without You. Saturday: To Christ Scripture: Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. —galatians 5:24–25 Prayer Starter: Holy Spirit, help me each and every day to walk in the Spirit, to love the things You love and hate the things You hate. Prayer Closer: Lord, believers everywhere are struggling today to crucify their flesh and walk in the Spirit. Strengthen them and help them to walk in the freedom You died to give us all. dailytalks.indd 42dailytalks.indd 42 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  54. 54. 43 PRAYING WITH JESUS: Week 8 Prayer Authority SCRIPTURE: Mark 1:21–28 KEY VERSE: The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” —mark 1:27 ENTERING THE SCRIPTURES Jesus has moved on to Capernaum, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. It’s the Sabbath, and we’re sitting in the synagogue eager to hear Him speak. We can tell by the attentive expressions that people are spellbound by Jesus’ teaching. It’s no wonder. They’re used to hearing itinerant rabbis quoting other rabbis and teachers of the law to back up every point they make. The last visiting rabbi told us that on the Sabbath we can’t take a lid off a clay jar. But if the lid is already off, it’s okay to drink what’s in the jar. Only don’t pick up the jar and pour—that would be forbid- den work! Afterward, we were happy to get out into the fresh air of normal life. But today Jesus, a radically different sort of rabbi, is speaking in the synagogue. He teaches a simpler, more direct approach to faith where there are no teachers of the law with rule books standing between us and God. Jesus speaks with a deep, personal, intimate knowledge of God. Jesus declares with conviction, “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Luke 12:7) As we listen, chills run down our backs. The power of the teaching of Jesus is so profound that even the craziest fellow in the village is stirred up and yells out, “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” (Mark 1:24) Jesus peers deeply into the eyes of the bedeviled man. When Jesus parts His lips to speak, He doesn’t quote a rule or a law. dailytalks.indd 43dailytalks.indd 43 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  55. 55. 44 Instead Jesus issues an authoritative command: “Be quiet. Come out of him!” The deranged man convulses and shrieks so loudly that the hens across the street squawk and flap their wings and scurry blindly for the bushes. After the shriek, dead silence falls in the synagogue. Over the course of several minutes the man’s whole body relaxes, one muscle group at a time, and a peaceful, childlike look settles on to his face, as if he’s just crawled out from hiding under the covers. The evil spirit is gone! None of us has ever seen authority like this! As we listen to Jesus teach, our hearts beat with the hope that what He was saying is true. Now we have rock-solid proof that Jesus operates with an authority far beyond anything we’ve ever known. Soon the whole region has heard the remarkable news. Jesus has proven his authority. Our prayers in turn have author- ity because Jesus personally vests us with it. (See Luke 9:1–2.) Of course, ours is not blanket, absolute authority in the sense that every- thing is going to happen exactly as we word it just because we’ve prayed. Although Jesus has absolute authority, even He is very cir- cumspect in making sure He uses it wisely and in accordance with His Father’s greater plan. Remember back when Jesus wouldn’t turn stones into bread even though He was starving and had the power to do so? (See Matthew 4:3–4.) Nor does Jesus use His absolute power to win over disgruntled neighbors in Nazareth. (See Luke 4:25–27.) He never uses His absolute authority to please Himself or others. He only uses His absolute authority to please God. On the other hand, Jesus constantly exercises spiritual authority in his teachings. A careful reading of today’s Scripture reveals that many people were awed, helped, set free and transformed by Jesus’ spiritual authority in the same life-changing way that absolute au- thority can exorcise an evil spirit. Amazing as it seems, Jesus gives us the spiritual authority to pray God’s truth, words, love, connection, strength, provision and power over people, over ourselves, over life situations and over our greater world. And through the avenue of prayer, Jesus grants us the spiritual dailytalks.indd 44dailytalks.indd 44 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  56. 56. 45 authority to take stands against evil, injustice, greed and sin, and the authority to reclaim the lost. And that’s something worth declaring all over the countryside. PRAYING THE SCRIPTURES Choose a specific spiritual stand you feel strongly about today. Thank God that through prayer in union with Jesus you have the authority to take this stand. Then pray as the Spirit leads, believing that your prayers have spiritual authority and are making a difference. dailytalks.indd 45dailytalks.indd 45 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  57. 57. 46 Week 8: Authority Sunday: Authority of Jesus Scripture: Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” —matthew 28:18–20 Prayer Starter: Lord Jesus, we can’t begin to make disciples until we ourselves are truly Your disciples. Help Your followers live to know and obey You. Prayer Closer: I pray for teachers, pastors and missionaries whose lives are devoted to making disciples in Your name. Bless them with authority and anointing from heaven that cannot be denied. Monday: Authority over Evil Spirits Scripture: All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!” And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area. —luke 4:36–37 Prayer Starter: God, help us be prepared spiritually to recognize and take authority, in Jesus’ name, over evil spirits. Prayer Closer: Lord God, help me be sensitive to opportunities to spread the news about freedom in Christ. Help me not leave it for others to do. Tuesday: Authority of the Righteous Scripture: When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan. —proverbs 29:2 dailytalks.indd 46dailytalks.indd 46 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  58. 58. 47 Prayer Starter: Father God, Your heart hurts for those who are hurting and oppressed. I pray that You would move on behalf of ev- ery nation in the world to put good men and women in positions of leadership. Prayer Closer: Lord, bring down every wicked leader who oppresses his/her own people and who rules to bring glory to themselves. Wednesday: Authority to Forgive Sins Scripture: “Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has author- ity on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. —luke 5:23–25 Prayer Starter: Father, there is no greater joy than knowing You’ve forgiven our sins, not even the joy of being healed by You. Give me that joy anew today, Lord. Prayer Closer: Lord, for all people who are paralyzed not just physi- cally but spiritually as well, I pray for healing. Heal them to get up and walk physically and spiritually toward You. Thursday: God-given Authority Scripture: “For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken. I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.” —john 12:49–50 Prayer Starter: Father, I know that too often my words are not Your words. Be a guard over my thoughts and what comes out of my mouth, Lord, that it may be a blessing to others. dailytalks.indd 47dailytalks.indd 47 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  59. 59. 48 Prayer Closer: Your Word is going out every day by so many who love You. I pray those words would lead to everlasting life for those who hear them. Friday: Governing Authority Scripture: Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The au- thorities that exist have been established by God. —romans 13:1 Prayer Starter: Father, an understanding and respect for authority is something that is greatly lacking in our culture and the results are scary, Lord. I can’t change others, but I choose today to do my part to restore a respect for authority by honoring, supporting and praying for those in authority over me. Prayer Closer: So, Lord, I admit I struggle with some people in au- thority over me, especially _______________________. I pray today that You would protect him/her, give him/her favor with others under his/her authority, and help him/her to use the position You’ve placed him/her in with wisdom and kindness. Saturday: Fear of Authority Scripture: Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. —romans 13:3 (nkjv) Prayer Starter: God, I lift up young people today who are running from authority. Reach down and turn their lives around until they are running into Your arms. Prayer Closer: I pray for the protection of our country’s police offic- ers and all those who risk their lives for our safety. Please bless them, Lord, and surround them with Your angels. dailytalks.indd 48dailytalks.indd 48 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  60. 60. 49 PRAYING WITH JESUS: Week 9 Praying in a Solitary Place SCRIPTURE: Mark 1:29–39 KEY VERSE: 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 1:35 ENTERING THE SCRIPTURES We are sleeping on a mat on the floor in a small divided room in the home of Peter and Andrew along with Jesus and a group of disciples. Here in the ancient village of Capernaum, sleeping is a group activity. Because everyone sleeps together in such a small space, when one of us rises we all awaken, usually to the sound of the village rooster or the squall of the newest baby on the block. We’ve had a very late night and everyone—including Jesus—is desperately in need of sleep. Yesterday was the Sabbath, and the villagers waited until after sundown to come here so they wouldn’t break the Sabbath laws about travel. The moment night fell, people came over in droves. They crowded at the doorway begging for heal- ing and relief from demons. Jesus cured them all. It has been a re- markable yet very exhausting day—and night—for all of us. We turn over on our mats and notice that Jesus is wide awake. We’re surprised because Jesus seems very much at peace right now. The warm welcome in Capernaum has been tonic for His soul after the horrible rejection He experienced in Nazareth. Here in Peter’s house Jesus has laughed and smiled like He’s among his own broth- ers. And more importantly, there are countless people here in the village who are beginning to believe in Him! Jesus carefully crawls out of the dark room so as not to awaken anyone. He ties His cloak around His shoulders against the cool night air and quietly steps out onto the small porch near the cis- tern. His bare feet step into the dirt courtyard because He’s carrying dailytalks.indd 49dailytalks.indd 49 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  61. 61. 50 His sandals in His hand lest the crunch of the soles against the gravel set the dogs barking and awaken the neighbors. We wonder where on earth Jesus could be heading. Jesus silently passes the fishing boats and the stables, the thresh- ing grounds and the vineyards where people will be stirring in a few hours to begin the day’s work. He travels farther on, feeling His way along an isolated pathway by the light of the moon until He reaches a spot where there is no evidence of human habitation. At last He sinks to the ground and begins to pray. We wonder what subject of prayer is of such crucial importance that God would plant a “get up and go pray” command in His mind in the middle of the night. And why did Jesus go to such great lengths to get so far away from the village? Couldn’t He have prayed just as well in the stable or out by the cistern? Jesus continues in prayer as the stars begin to fade. We hear the faraway crow of a rooster. The sky turns pink. The sun rises, bringing color to the landscape. Jesus continues to pray. By now everyone is up back at Peter’s house, yet Jesus makes no move to head back to the village. Another hour passes and we hear a familiar voice calling Jesus’ name. Peter spots Jesus praying on the hillside and runs to Him and says, “Master, everyone is looking for you!” Jesus doesn’t seem to be surprised. But His reply startles us all: “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” (Mark 1:38) Peter answers, “Why are we going so soon? Things are going so well here right now. You have everything you need here—a home to stay in, food to eat. We all love you like you’re part of our own family. And the people in the village are already gathering at my house in droves, eager to hear you teach again.” Jesus responds, “It’s time to move on to another place.” Peter rubs sweat off his forehead. He didn’t expect to have to choose so soon between supporting his family and going off with Jesus. We can see a mental battle going on. Then Peter finally nods to Jesus, and they set off together for a nearby village. dailytalks.indd 50dailytalks.indd 50 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  62. 62. 51 This Scripture teaches us the absolute importance of creating per- sonal space for prayer. From Jesus’ example we learn the necessity of good personal prayer habits, which include finding time even if it means getting up early, becoming more intentional, being more disciplined and using more determination to fit quality prayer time into our busy days. But Jesus’ example isn’t simply about carving out time. It is also about carving out physical and mental space, which is much harder to do. In order to bring decisions before God in prayer, we need to draw apart from everything else. Intense, uninterrupted prayer is often the only way to move on toward something new at the expense of leaving behind dearly loved parts of our lives. Picture yourself in the place of Jesus, lying there in the house where you feel safe, comforted, loved and accepted. Imagine how much harder the decision to leave would have been if Jesus had ig- nored that restless “Get up and go out to pray” calling. What if Jesus had rationalized that He could pray just as well lying there amongst His sleeping friends? The strong emotions tying Him to the comfortable, protected surroundings would have been a stumbling block to prayer. Serious prayer for guidance always calls us out. We must inten- tionally set out on a mental and physical journey to an empty, neutral zone, a “lonely place” that’s not full of the precious, hard-to-ignore details of our lives. We must step out of our little worlds into a setting where we can be totally alone with God, where we can more actively pray and set our whole attention on God. Jesus retreated to the holy detachment of a solitary place. Solitary places are not always easy to find. But once we’re there, it’s much easier to find God. PRAYING THE SCRIPTURES Think about some sort of change that you have been considering making in your life. Instead of praying about it in a comfortable, fam- iliar setting, intentionally set off to find a physically and emotionally solitary place where God’s Spirit and the inner voice can more easily help you sort out the next step in your life. dailytalks.indd 51dailytalks.indd 51 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  63. 63. 52 Week 9: Alone Sunday: To Pray Scripture: After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. —matthew 14:23 Prayer Starter: Dear God, forgive me for minimizing the importance of time alone with You. Draw me, Lord, into Your sweet presence every day. Prayer Closer: Father, at this moment people everywhere are seek- ing a place and time to get away and pray. Clear a path to You in the busyness of their schedules and responsibilities. Meet with them, Lord, and bless them. Monday: Alone, but Not Alone Scripture: “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me.” —john 16:32 Prayer Starter: Thank You, Father, for Your constant presence. When friends turn away and I’m feeling alone, I pray that I would be quick to remember that with You in my heart, I’m never alone. Prayer Closer: Lord, I lift up __________________________ to You today. He/she is feeling abandoned and alone. I pray that you would meet him/her in his/her pain with Your love and comfort. Tuesday: A Companion for Man Scripture: The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.” —genesis 2:18 Prayer Starter: Lover of our souls, be an intimate companion to all, married or single, who are suffering today in their aloneness. Prayer Closer: As their wedding day approaches, God, bless and prepare ______________________ and _____________________ to be lifelong companions. dailytalks.indd 52dailytalks.indd 52 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  64. 64. 53 Wednesday: Left Alone Scripture: The widow who is really in need and left all alone puts her hope in God and continues night and day to pray and to ask God for help. —1 timothy 5:5 Prayer Starter: Lord Jesus, according to this Scripture, some- times it takes a long time to see answers to our prayers. But even a widow in desperate need doesn’t give up and continues to put her hope in You. Thank You for her example. Help me never give up hope in You. Prayer Closer: Lord, several family members and good friends are looking for jobs. Some are putting their hope in You; some are just hop- ing in hope, I guess. I pray that You would answer the prayers of both. Thursday: With a Vision Scripture: I, Daniel, was the only one who saw the vision; those who were with me did not see it, but such terror overwhelmed them that they fled and hid themselves. So I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless. —daniel 10:7–8 Prayer Starter: Dear God, I’ve committed to something that scares me half to death, yet I believe it is something You want me to do. I can’t do this without You. Today I put my confidence in Your enabling grace and not my own abilities. Prayer Closer: Lord, bring support and encouragement to those who are struggling to move in the direction You’ve given them. I pray especially for those who feel inadequate and alone. Give them cour- age, faith and wisdom to take the next step. Friday: With the Lord Scripture: It is good for a man to bear the yoke while he is young. Let him sit alone in silence, for the Lord has laid it on him. Let him bury his face in the dust—there may yet be hope. —lamentations 3:27–29 dailytalks.indd 53dailytalks.indd 53 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM
  65. 65. 54 Prayer Starter: I sit alone in silence and humility before You today, Lord. As hopeless as the situation about ______________________ looks, today I choose to take my hands off of it and hope in You. Prayer Closer: Lord, in our busy lives and culture today, sitting qui- etly alone can feel like wasted time. Slow us down, Lord. Convince each of us of all that is accomplished in the quiet time we spend with You. Saturday: With Friends Scripture: The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. —john 6:22 Prayer Starter: Alone with You, Jesus, to soak up Your love and sweetness. Nothing could be more wonderful. Prayer Closer: Lord, here are some things that keep me from being alone with You: my cell phone, my computer, the Internet, televi- sion, coffee with friends, family commitments—all good things un- less they take priority over You. Be my top priority today and every day, Lord Jesus. dailytalks.indd 54dailytalks.indd 54 2/28/11 9:01 PM2/28/11 9:01 PM