Today is Sunday, the 23rd of October, 2022, in the 30th week of Ordinary Time.
May the peace of Christ embrace your soul, today!
TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
Lord our God, Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who encourages and strengthens us in all distress, we thank you for turning our suffering into a pathway to life, so that we may be thankful and trusting through everything. You can change what we find hardest into what is best for us. Praise to your name that a way through sin and death is given to us. Praise to your name that you have shown us a way through all evil, a way that is blest. Amen. (Daily Prayer from Plough.com)
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.
(2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NIV)
Today I am grateful:
- that the Lord turns suffering and hard things into what is best for us
- that the Lord comforts us in our troubles, that we, in turn, may comfort others
- that the prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working; may I be that righteous person (James 5:16)
- that we are worth more, to our Father, than “many sparrows” (Matthew 10)
- for new opportunities in worship and service
The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him. (Psalms 28:7 ESV)
Praise the LORD! Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD! Blessed be the name of the LORD from this time forth and forevermore! From the rising of the sun to its setting, the name of the LORD is to be praised! The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth? He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes, with the princes of his people. He gives the barren woman a home, making her the joyous mother of children. Praise the LORD! (Psalms 113:1-9 ESV)
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
(Joshua 1:9 ESV)
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? (Psalms 56:3-4 ESV)
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
(Matthew 10:29-31 ESV)
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”
(John 14:1 ESV)
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
(James 5:16-18 ESV)
When I was in Junior High, I played football. If you know me, you know how funny that is. I was always on the “B” team, and played what was called “split end,” back then. I believe that position is referred to as “wide receiver,” these days. I wasn’t very fast, but I could catch the ball. I never made a touchdown, but I got inside the five yard line once. I was also the punter. I got to do that quite a bit, and was fairly good at it. My football career was short-lived, though, because I was in the band, and being in the band and playing football in high school were things that didn’t really mix well. That, and I wasn’t really good enough.
But, in playing football, there were always guys that were much bigger than me. And, to be sure, when facing them on the field, I was afraid. Our coaches, who were able to get away with stuff for which they would be instantly fired in 2022, mocked any semblance of fear. And they’re mantra, when you were afraid of someone who was bigger than you, was, “he puts his pants on one leg at a time, just like you do.”
In retrospect, that is pretty asinine.
But, guess what! James tells us pretty much the same thing about Elijah in his passage on prayer. First he tells us that the prayer of a righteous man is powerful. It’s not hard to remember the old KJV of that verse, which I memorized decades ago. “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
Then James reminds us that Elijah was a man, just like us. Of course, Elijah probably didn’t wear “pants.” I don’t think they had pants back then.
The different versions are interesting, in verse 17.
Elijah was a human being, even as we are. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.
(James 5:17 NIV)
The ESV says that he was a man “with a nature like ours,” the KJV says “subject to like passions as we are,” and the NLT almost says the same as the NIV, “human as we are.”
And, while I might disagree that Elijah was “just like me,” I can see the point. He was human. He was not a “god,” he was not an angel, he was not “superman.” He was human, which meant that he had the same passions and desires that a normal human being has. Yet, he prayed and God listened.
The key in all of this, I believe, is walking uprightly, or, being “righteous.” Now, it is said that we have no righteousness of our own, which is true. But this is referring to salvation, which cannot be accomplished without the righteousness of Christ imputed to us.
We can walk in “righteousness” or “sanctification,” which means we do our best to avoid sin, to resist temptation and those passions and desires that all men have that are not godly. These are things that come through what we call Spiritual Disciplines, or Spiritual Formation. In other words, we have to practice at it.
I guess the bottom line is, if you are living in the normal passions and desires of a human being, and allowing them to hold sway over your life, your prayers will not be very effective. Make no mistake, God’s will will be done, with our without us and our prayers. But there may come a time, just as it did for Elijah, when that thing that is going to happen depends on us and our prayers.
That’s a heavy responsibility. Can prayer change God’s mind? That, beloved, is a subject deeper than the darkest part of the ocean, and I do not pretend to understand it. On the one hand, Scriptures says that God does not change His mind, and, on the other hand, there are indications that He can be swayed by our prayers.
Andrew Murray insists that, once we have prayed, believing, as Jesus taught us, that we will receive what we have prayed for, then we need to keep on praying, being persistent in prayer. Elijah prayed seven times for that rain. “We, if we believe the promise of God without doubting, shall pray until we receive the answer.” (Murray)
Father, I thank You for prayer. I am grateful that You do listen to our prayers. I am also grateful for the way in which You “speak” to me through these devotions. I never know exactly where it’s going to end up when I start typing and reading. Scriptures come from various sources, and the Holy Spirit directs me in my thinking and meditations. There are days when I think it’s going down one path, but, before I know it, it is heading down a totally different path. I love that about You and the Holy Spirit.
I pray, Father, that I would be quick to confess my sins to You. I am not perfect, far from it, but I do not make excuses for my sins. Not being perfect is no excuse for sin. I am still a sinful man, still driven, sometimes, by those passions and desires. Help me to be righteous in my walk with You in Your Kingdom, that my prayers might be “effectual” and “avail much.” I desire no glory in being recognized for praying. I desire Your glory when things happen because of prayer.
When I pray for healing, I desire it to happen, first, for You to be glorified in all the earth, and, second, for the well-being of the person for whom I have prayed. I desire righteousness not so that I can be seen as righteous. If anything, I desire to be seen as merely human. I desire righteousness so that my prayers will be heard and be effective. I also pray that I will be persistent, as called for. Let me not give up in praying for people.
I thank You that You are trustworthy. I know that, when I am afraid, I can trust in You. Of course, if that be the case, why am I afraid? This seems to go around in circles. I am afraid, because I am human, and sometimes the flesh wins out.
Thank You, Father, that You are able to turn all of the “hard things” into blessings for us. I thank You that my anxieties, when experienced, always turn out to be silly and useless, because You are trustworthy.
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!
God, my Father,
You have promised to remain forever with those
who do what is just and right.
Help me to live in Your presence.
The loving plan of Your Wisdom was made known when
Jesus, your Son, became man like us.
I want to obey His commandment of love
and bring Your peace and joy to others.
Keep before me the wisdom and love
You have made known in Your Son.
Help me to be like Him in word and deed.
(Prayer to Live in God’s Presence)
Grace and peace, friends.