Difficulty in Submission

(Day 19 in a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

We often find it difficult to pray. Many times we feel praying is next to impossible. If you really think about it, the very act of true praying is getting over ourselves and coming to the end of our stubborn sinful ways. When we pray, we die to self and engage in a warfare against the flesh that so often wants and seeks its own way.

Many times we find it difficult to pray because we focus on praying itself and not on the God who answers those prayers. We set our own rituals and habits in place when and how we pray and that sometimes keeps us from Him. By God’s grace alone, we know Him, and we know He is there and not only hears us but listens. He is not silent. He always answers our prayers and acts in accord with His perfect will for our good and His glory.

“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.” 1 John 5:14–15 (ESV)

It is not by prayer pattern or method that we reach God, it is by our submission. When we recognize God’s sovereignty in our prayer life, we are also reminded of His love, grace, holiness, and righteousness, and we are thereby faced with the harsh reality of our own sinfulness in the light of His glory and grace.

People have often said “I believe in the power of prayer” and there is merit to that statement. However, it may be more accurate to say that we believe in the power of God…so we pray. When we pray, we are reminded of our own insufficiency and lack of control. It is through prayer that we daily submit that insufficiency to someone greater than ourselves. God is able!

Think of it this way… God is omniscient (knows all things) and omnipotent (all powerful), and because He has our ultimate good and His glory in mind, we can trust Him with everything. You and I, however, are sinful. We don’t know everything, and can’t control everything. Our submission is a work that should be primary and given daily attention. It is difficult at times but critical to our relationship with God.

We will always to some degree find it difficult to let go and submit, but, nevertheless, we must always desperately seek God. We must also pray for God to help us pray, treating prayer less like a grocery list and more like a relationship.

Lord, help me swallow my pride and submit to your will. I recognize my own sinfulness and ask that you lead me, through your wonderful grace, to a more complete submissive prayer relationship with you.

By Doug Hull

Is Prayer Bargaining with God…or Submitting to Him?

(Day 18 in a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

“He willingly submitted to death.”- Isaiah 53:12b

“But please, not what I want. What do you want?”- Luke 22:42 (The Message)

Isaiah prophesied that the “Suffering Servant”, the Messiah, would have a submissive attitude in his death. Mark recorded the way Jesus fulfilled this as he prayed in Gethsemane, “Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will.” – Mark 14:36. Not only did the Savior voice this prayer of submission; he acted on it. He had already said that he would give his life willingly. “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own.” John 10:18. He prayed in submission to His Father and acted in fulfillment.

We too, are to offer prayers of submission to our Heavenly Father. Sometimes we express these in song: “Have Thine Own Way, Lord,” “I Surrender All,” “Where You Lead Me, I will follow.” But in our hearts, we may be adding conditions: “as long as it fits my plans,” or “I surrender all except…,” or “if you don’t lead me out of my comfort zone.” Submission is not a bargain with God. It is Unconditional Surrender!

Why do we need to pray – and live – in submission? Many reasons come to mind: Jesus did, and I should too. He is God, and I am not. He has all power, and I am weak. He knows all things, and I am limited. He is sufficient, and I am not. His will and plan for me is perfect, and my will is often self-centered and stubborn. He is my Master, and I am his servant. All glory and praise belong to him – not to me.

We often think of submissive praying in the big matters of life. True, but he also deserves our commitment in everything. I learned this lesson again a few weeks ago. At 9:30 p.m., the thought came, “Where is my wallet?” After looking in the usual places, I realized that I had left it in the restaurant where we had celebrated my friend’s birthday some hours earlier. Credit cards, driver’s license, and more ran through my mind. I felt my anxiety growing, “what if I don’t find it?” I prayed that God would help me get it back. A phone call to the restaurant resulted in the manager’s words, “Sorry, I can’t find it.” Then it was as if the Lord’s voice came to me, “You have me. Am I not enough?” In submission I said, “Yes, Lord, you are enough. You are all that I need.” He calmed my spirit and made me realize that whether my wallet was found or not, it was okay, because he was in control. I went to bed and slept. At 11:30, I was awakened by a phone call, telling me that it had been found.

I received a more valuable lesson in trusting and submitting to Christ.

“Father, help me in all things to pray, and live, in submission to you. Amen.”

By Pat Browning

Embrace God’s Power

(Day 17 in a 28-Day series from First Bradenton)

“Give us today the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.” – Matt 6:11-13

When I read this section of scripture, where Jesus sets the example for us on how we should pray, I am always amazed by how perfect what He said is for us. Jesus is the Son of God of course, so it would not be any other way. Yet, it still always reminds me of how deep His understanding of our struggles is.

I also realize how much more often I need to remember these words and submit to God’s will over my own. It is not in our human nature to forgive those who have “sin against us.” For that we need the power of the Holy Spirit. We also need the Lord’s help in avoiding giving into temptation. I have found in my own life, as many others have, that if I try and resist temptation on my own the result is always the same. Failure.

I cannot resist the devil in my own power, but that is okay. God is with me. He has promised to always be with us (Hebrews 13), and He is far more powerful than the devil could ever hope to be. Through His power I really can be rescued from the power of the “evil one.” I just have to remember when I am tempted to do what Jesus showed me to-pray.

Sometimes those are the hardest moments to pray-when the temptation is so strong it is hard to think about anything else. And that is not just a coincidence. The devil does not want us to pray, for he knows that God’s power will always be victorious over him if we pray. So embrace that power today, God’s power!

Luke 12:32 tells us:

“Don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.”

God delights in blessing us and helping us resist evil and embrace His kingdom. So cry out to our loving God today with whatever you are facing in your life. He will embrace you and through His power you will live in victory over sin. This is not a one-time prayer though. Every day, when you face temptation over and over again do not lose heart, but pray! And see the mighty power of God work in and through you.

By Frank Welch

Submissive Praying

(Day 16 in a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

“Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)

For just a moment, put yourself in Jesus’ shoes. Imagine the Son of God seated on His throne in heaven right next to His Father. The crystal sea, the golden pavement, the perfect peace, the angel voices… It is incredible, beyond our imagination. Jesus is God. He is one with the Father. Yet, when God asked, Jesus laid aside His authority, His divinity, His rightful place, His glory and His immortality. He willingly submitted to His Father and became a helpless human infant. He grew up and experienced life just as we do, and He willingly laid down his life as a sacrifice. He died a brutal and humiliating death because He was fully surrendered to the will of God.

Jesus is our example. We are told to:

“have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing**by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:5-8)

Most of us will never be asked to make the ultimate sacrifice. Rather we are called to daily surrender our lives in service of each other. It’s easy to be nice to a cashier or hold the door open for an older person. But do we follow Jesus’ example and surrender our own will when our spouse is doing that annoying thing again? Do we lay aside our desires when a child needs some one-on-one? Do we help with dishes even when it’s been a very long day? Do we maintain our composure when an unsaved coworker gets under our skin?

Jesus prayed, “Yet not as I will, but as You will.” Can we do the same? The submissive prayer puts our hearts and minds in the proper position before God so that we follow His directive, even when we don’t understand why. If Jesus being God would submit to the Father’s will, and He is our example, then we should do no less.

Hanging on the cross at the very end, Jesus said, “Father, into Your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46) That should be our own battle cry every morning.

“Father, I lay down my life today. I choose to surrender my will to your own. I choose to serve the people you have put into my life. Into Your hands I commit my spirit, my heart and my life.”

By Lisa Fulghum

Dim Opportunities

(Day 15 in a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

It is one of the most submissive prayers in scripture, yet we don’t know what was said. It wasn’t voiced by just one person; instead it was voiced by an entire people group. Their lives were at stake. Knowingly and unknowingly, they all placed their hope in the submission of one person. Her name was Esther.

No one other than God could have placed Esther in her position. It was a position of opportunity. The opportunity blessed her with many comforts, the comforts of a queen. But while she enjoyed those comforts, she became aware that a bigger opportunity had been given to her. This opportunity required her complete submission.

“Mordecai told the messenger to reply to Esther, “Don’t think that you will escape the fate of all the Jews because you are in the king’s palace. If you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will come to the Jewish people from another place, but you and your father’s family will be destroyed. Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.” Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: “Go and assemble all the Jews who can be found in Susa and fast for me. Don’t eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my female servants will also fast in the same way. After that, I will go to the king even if it is against the law. If I perish, I perish.” So Mordecai went and did everything Esther had commanded him.” Esther 4:13-17

All of our life’s positions have opportunities. Some we see clearly and quickly; others come slowly and dimly. The clear ones normally require less submission; they make sense to us and may even fulfill our desires. The dim ones usually demand much more submission; they challenge our comfort and may even threaten our future.
In the face of the dim opportunities, much like Jesus, we can pray honestly from the depths of our empty hearts,

“Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…My Father, if it possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 6:10, 26:39

Grace A Dieu

(Day 14 in a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

Le Créateur, we thank you for preparing us for our battles. The first thing we need to be prepared for within spiritual battle is the importance of Scripture. Scripture is a defensive weapon as well as an offensive one. This stronghold can deflect an attack as well as inflict an attack.

I am a child of God, and I shall NOT fear anything. God gave me a shield and armor within the words of the Bible. I have been dealing with confusion, deception, and betrayal. I didn’t know how to fight off the negative energy and thoughts. God clearly tells me the devil is the one “who deceives the whole world” (Revelation 12:9). Deception is one of the main arrows Satan fires from his bow.

Le Père, you started showing me signs within quotes, movies, and songs. I had to stop procrastinating and open the Bible to find my defense mechanism towards satan. I can’t face life each day without feeding, nourishing, and equipping myself with the Word of God. If we cut the Bible out of our lives, then we are guaranteeing to become a casualty of war. We need to carry our Bible onto the battlegrounds, and we will win the war.

Are you unsure that the Word of God can protect you or help you on the battlefield? The Word of God is so potent that it can transform people from the realm of spiritual darkness to light, from falsehood to truth, from being deceived to being enlightened. Every time God’s Word leads you out of temptation or through a trial, it’s a demonstration of Scripture’s power to cut through the spiritual and moral blindness inflicted by satanic forces. Every time that same Word of Truth leads a person to salvation, it demonstrates its power to cut a swath through Satan’s dominion and bring life to a soul previously sentenced to death.

“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

By Shanti M. Washington

Praying through Scripture

(Day 13 in a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

One of the best patterns for spiritual warfare that we can follow is Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. He demonstrates the adept use of Scripture as a shield for His own heart, reminding himself of the truth. This same well-aimed truth is what tears through the tempting words of Satan, revealing them to be lies and deceit. We need to have a good grasp on the truths in Scripture in order to use them against the attacks of the enemy. Just as we would equip ourselves from an armory for a physical battle, for a spiritual battle we must equip ourselves with knowledge of the Word.

One great way to do this is to pray through the Psalms. David and others wrote many Psalms about the deliverance and provision of God, how He is there to protect us from our enemy and sustain us through our battles. Praying through scripture will remind us of God’s character, faithfulness, and can bind us to the faith of believers past, knowing that these words are timeless and true. As we consider God’s ability to rescue us, let’s pray through Psalm 46, which reminds us to find our shelter in Him.

God is our refuge and strength, a helper who is always found in times of trouble.

Therefore we will not be afraid, though the earth trembles and the mountains topple

into the depths of the seas, though its water roars and foams and the mountains quake with its turmoil. Selah

There is a river—its streams delight the city of God, the holy dwelling place of the Most High.

God is within her; she will not be toppled. God will help her when the morning dawns.

Nations rage, kingdoms topple; the earth melts when he lifts his voice.

The Lord of Armies is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah

Come, see the works of the Lord, who brings devastation on the earth.

He makes wars cease throughout the earth. He shatters bows and cuts spears to pieces; he sets wagons ablaze.

“Stop your fighting, and know that I am God, exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth.”

The Lord of Armies is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah 

By Kyle Reilly

Offensive Praying: Frequent and Natural

(Day 12 in a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

Studies show that the key to any good relationship is healthy communication. If you ask a couple who have been married for 50 years what the key to marital success is, you will likely find out that communication is near the top of the list.

As relational beings made in the image of God, we all recognize this vital aspect of intimate relationships. J. Oswald Sanders said: “It is impossible for a believer, no matter what his experience, to keep right with God if he will not take the trouble to spend time with God. Spend plenty of time with him; let other things go, but don’t neglect Him.”

Offensive praying: Just like conversations in a healthy marital relationship or a quality friendship, prayer should be frequent and natural.

First, how frequent should we pray?

1 Thess. 5:16-18 says:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

We understand this to mean that we should always be in the attitude of prayer. We should always have the lines of communication open with God. If I only spoke to my wife on a single occasion during the week or only when I need something it would strain the relationship. If I only call my friend when I need him to help me I probably shouldn’t expect to keep him as a valued friend for long. However, if I take the time and effort to be purposeful about engaging with my wife or friend I will soon discover that the relationship grows closer. God wants a relationship with us. He wants that relationship to grow and build. Pray without ceasing.

Second, how do we make prayer a natural part of our life and not a mundane task?

It didn’t take me long as a Christian to learn that if I did not set aside a daily time to pray, the busyness of life would take over and get in the way. To not prioritize prayer is to prioritize something else. At the same time, I also learned that when I emphasize a set time to pray, I have the tendency to begin treating it like just another item on my to-do list. I can fall into the trap of checking God off and forgetting Him. A task oriented approach to prayer can lead to neglecting the Lord throughout the day. Don’t give up though! Ask God for help. Like communication in a healthy marriage, by God’s grace, a healthy prayer life develops over time. Stick with it, always.

“Prayer does not equip us for greater works— prayer is the greater work. Yet we think of prayer as some commonsense exercise of our higher powers that simply prepares us for God’s work. In the teachings of Jesus Christ, prayer is the working of the miracle of redemption in me, which produces the miracle of redemption in others, through the power of God.”  – Oswald Chambers

By Doug Hull

 

Pray First

(Day 11 of a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

“You can do more than pray after you have prayed, but you cannot do more than pray until you have prayed.” (S. D. Gordon)

Does it really matter what the order is in spiritual disciplines for the Christian? I believe it does – not because of what some man said, but because Jesus himself emphasized that prayer is of first importance.

A soldier does not go into battle without proper equipment and preparation. Yet we as believers sometimes feel that we can engage the enemy on our own, without prayer. Jesus reminded Peter that self-sufficiency would not result in success. He warned him,

“Simon, Simon, look out. Satan has asked to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.” (Luke 22:31-32)

Upon entering the Garden of Gethsemane, the Lord told his disciples,

“Pray that you may not fall into temptation.” (Luke 22:40)

In Matthew 26:36 and in Mark 14:32, his additional word to them was to sit there while he prayed. Upon taking Peter, James, and John farther, he told them,

“Remain here and stay awake with me.” (Matthew 26:38)

Notice that he did not say that they should get up and take action right then. They were to sit, or remain, until after prayer. Jesus knew the battle that he, and they, were facing, and how desperately they needed to pray and wait. He also knows exactly the trials and temptations that come to us. Yet, how often have we decided that we must act immediately, rather than remain and pray first?

Even the very Son of God realized that his own struggles required prayer and dependence on his Father. He knew that he faced horrible persecution and death. Consequently, he asked His Father to remove his cup of suffering if there could be another way for our forgiveness. Then in submission, he prayed, “

…nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Not only must we pray in times of temptation, but also when facing trials. I recall that once in the wee hours of the night, I realized that morning would bring an event with which I totally disagreed, but over which I had no control. I was in dire need of the strength my heavenly Father would provide as I prayed. It happened just as I had feared, but the Lord gave me strength. Likewise, he provided for all my needs in the days to come, as the trial continued. Then in his perfect timing, he brought about the best solution.

Each of us has encountered many and various trials, just as the Book of James tells us to expect. Times of suffering, disappointment, failure, illness, death, financial problems, family situations, and tough decisions will come. Our assurance is that our Father knows them ahead of time. He will provide wisdom, comfort, peace, and even joy, in the midst of these, when we trust him and take them to him in prayer.

“Jesus knows our every weakness
Take it to the Lord in prayer.”

Joseph Scriven – “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”

By Pat Browning

Jesus’ Offensive Prayer

(Day 10 in a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

“My prayer is not for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you. All who are mine belong to you, and you have given them to me, so they bring me glory. Now I am departing from the world; they are staying in this world, but I am coming to you. Holy Father, you have given me your name; now protect them by the power of your name so that they will be united just as we are. During my time here, I protected them by the power of the name you gave me. I guarded them so that not one was lost, except the one headed for destruction, as the Scriptures foretold. Now I am coming to you. I told them many things while I was with them in this world so they would be filled with my joy. I have given them your word. And the world hates them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I’m not asking you to take them out of the world, but to keep them safe from the evil one. They do not belong to this world any more than I do. Make them holy by your truth; teach them your word, which is truth. Just as you sent me into the world, I am sending them into the world. And I give myself as a holy sacrifice for them so they can be made holy by your truth. I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message.” – John 17:9-20

This is a section of the prayer Jesus prays in John 17. It is the longest recorded prayer in the Bible, and Jesus spends it praying for us.

A few of the things Jesus prays over us in this chapter are that we would be protected, united as believers, filled with joy, safe from the evil one, and holy.

When it comes to offensive praying, I think this is among the best examples to follow in our lives. We can pray for the same things as Jesus did here! This can be a guide when we are confused, or do not know what to pray for.

Each one of us greatly need all these things Jesus prayed over us to get through every day. I particularly like how Jesus prayed that we would be safe from the evil one. We need to pray that over each other now as much as ever.

We live in a world filled with so much darkness, and people who have become victims of the evil one. We see far too many people struggling with depression, suicide, violence, drugs, and overall hopelessness.

We should pray that we and the people around us would be safe from satan and his attacks that want to lead us down these evil paths. If anyone is struggling with any of these things, you are not a bad person or a bad Christian.

But I believe that praying for the things Jesus prayed for can allow you to fight against the attacks of the evil one and become victorious over them because of the power of Christ alone!

By Frank Welch