Come With Everything

(Day 26 in a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

“The prayer of faith will save the sick person, and the Lord will raise him up; if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect. Elijah was a human being as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the land. Then he prayed again, and the sky gave rain and the land produced its fruit.” – James 5:15-18

One of the most incredible things about the gospel is that we are encouraged, throughout the New Testament, to pray always and in all circumstances. God did not give us access to Himself begrudgingly, hoping that we would never actually pray. He wants us to come to Him with everything-good, bad or indifferent-so that we can continue to build a relationship with Him, and so that He can continue to shape us into the people that He wants us to be.

In this passage, James reminds us to pray boldly for big, even miraculous things. Remembering to also be submissive in prayer, we must keep in mind that God’s highest goals are our sanctification and His glorification. Sometimes that means He will answer our prayers in very unexpected ways. But that should not stop us from praying with boldness. Rather, it should spur us on to pray with more perseverance and fervor, so that we may see God work in better ways than we can imagine in our limited view.

This is where James’ example of Elijah’s story becomes so helpful. In 1 Kings 17-18 Elijah prays for the drought that James describes, and the Lord brings it upon Israel, stopping the rain for three and a half years. Throughout that time, all of Israel suffers greatly from the resulting famine, but the Lord provides for Elijah in miraculous ways. And through the drought, the Lord turns the hearts of the people back to Himself, so that they worship Him once again. It is an amazing story of our great God and a righteous man who knew how to pray well. I encourage you to read it and dwell on how Elijah’s example can encourage you to pray with boldness.

By Kyle Reilly

Pray Boldly

(Day 24 in a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

Christ Jesus is the one who died, but even more has been raised; He also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us. – Romans 8:34b

Therefore let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need. – Hebrews 4:16

Even though we are addressing the Sovereign God, Creator and Sustainer of the universe, we can pray boldly and without fear or timidity. How is that possible? By his grace, through his provision of salvation in his Son, we call him, “Father,” and we are his children. He invites us to come; he loves us, and he knows our needs.

We can pray with boldness because Jesus is our intercessor.

We have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ the Righteous One. – 1 John 2:1b.

He is the one who gave his life for us, and God raised him from the grave by the power of the same Holy Spirit who lives in the heart of every believer. We come to the Father by him and pray in his name.

Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, since he always lives to intercede for them. – Hebrews 7:25.

Christ is our example in praying boldly. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus perfectly combined boldness with submission. In the High Priestly Prayer of John 17, Jesus made bold requests of His Father, as he prayed for himself, his disciples, and all who would later believe – you and me.

During his earthly life, he offered prayers and appeals with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. – Hebrews 5:7.

Likewise, in Acts 7, Stephen prayed boldly in words very similar to those of Jesus on the cross.

In his book The Case for Miracles, Lee Strobel recounts a more recent example of Ruth, a ten-year-old girl praying boldly in Equatorial Africa. A mother had died in childbirth, leaving the premature newborn and a two-year-old daughter. The missionary doctor, Helen Roseveare, asked the orphans to pray for a hot water bottle to keep the baby warm, since there was no electricity or incubator. Ruth’s prayer was bold and specific, asking God for the hot water bottle to come that afternoon, since without it, the baby may not survive the night. Then she added her own request that God would send the two-year-old girl a doll, to remind her that he loved her. The missionary confesses that she really didn’t believe God was going to do that. The only hope was a package arriving from her homeland, and that had not happened in her four years there. Two hours later, a package arrived. As the missionary and children opened it, they found a hot water bottle. Little Ruth immediately decided that since God sent that, he must have also sent a doll. She started digging through the box and found a beautiful doll. God had led in the packing of that box five months earlier.

“Lord, please grant me the faith and boldness of a little child.” Amen.

By Pat Browning

Le Messiah

(Day 21 in a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

How often do we submit to pray? We should submit ourselves to God more often. It seems we have a hard time humbling ourselves when it comes to prayer.

I also struggle with submitting or humbling myself to God during prayer. I would rush and complete a prayer and expect God to answer that insufficient prayer. I always wonder why I don’t feel God talking to me anymore, because I don’t take the time to actually speak to him. I don’t discipline to humble myself when I’m speaking to my Creator. I don’t submit nor act as if I really want to speak to him. I always give him half-finished prayers. I noticed that I use to only call on God when I’m in trouble and I realized I was in trouble. I notice my prayers weren’t submissive or humbling in any way, shape, or form. I started to do my research on how to submit to God during Prayer.

I realized I had to change this rabid form of prayer. This wasn’t even a Prayer; it was an “I’ll talk to you when I really need something” prayer. I noticed God deserves more respect when it comes to submissive/ submission Prayer. “Submission is not a dirty word; it is a liberating word. We are all under God’s protective authority, and we can only be free if we seek it and submit to it. Coming under authority is your protection. Living free is your opportunity to be all that God created you to be.” (Crosswalk Devotional)

Do you submit to God in other ways than prayers? We need to submit to God in other ways than prayer, like how we live our everyday lives. Do you have trouble submitting/ humbling yourself to God? Sit and talk to God, one on one. Let him know your problems, and he will redeem you. He will show exactly what you need to do. God needs to be in authority of our lives.

Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner. Hebrews 13:17

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. James 4:7

By Shanti M. Washington

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

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

Three Ways to Let God Out of Your Box

(Third and final entry for this post)

The first two entries talked about two ways to let God out of your box: don’t give up and stop believing lies. Read Nick’s quote again to see the third way.

Too often we tell ourselves we aren’t smart enough or attractive enough or talented enough to pursue our dreams. We buy into what others say about us, or we put restrictions on ourselves. What’s worse is that when we consider ourselves unworthy, we are putting limits on how God can work through us! When you give up on your dreams, you put God in a box.

As a long-distance runner, I often hear people say something like this after they hear about some race I’ve done or I’m preparing for: “I could never do that. You’re amazing.” If I were to bluntly respond what I’m thinking when they say that, it would be something like this: “That’s ridiculous. Of course you could. And by the way, amazing I am not.” This is a simple example of what we often do to God as well. We tell him what’s possible…so in the box he goes. The third way to let him out of your box is to do the opposite.

Resist Putting Limits

Nick said we put limits on how God can work through us. And this can have tragic consequences. Case in point: the Israelite spies in Canaan (read Exodus 13-14). Twelve went in to check it out. Ten said, “No go.” Two said, “We should go.” Forty years later, the ten got want they wanted and so did the two. God showed up for the two who resisted putting limits on him. They experienced what God can do through those who allow him to work through them (read Joshua 6,14).

So how can we resist our human nature and give God all the freedom in our lives he deserves?

  • Foster a mindset of submission to daily prompts from God-“Sure, I’d be happy to ask my neighbor how I can pray for them. What else?”
  • Keep your finger on the “yes” trigger when God comes with a big ask-“Yes, I’ll take a vacation week to go on a mission trip. And I’ll stay open to even moving my family to live there permanently.”
  • Seek counsel from those we believe live submitted lives-“Can we have coffee soon? I’m needing some guidance on something God has challenged me to do.”
  • Surround yourself with other “resisters”-“God, who should be in my corner? Holy Spirit, surround me with fellow resisters.”

In what area(s) of your life is God in your limit box? What could God do through you if you’d resist putting limits on him? Tell God, “I’m sorry for not giving you my ‘yes’ more quickly. I desire to experience what it’s like to give you full access. Show me what it’s like to let you out of my box.”

Bonhoeffer on Obedience & Submission

Reading through Breakfast with Bonhoeffer thinking I’m not getting much. Then here come these quotes from chapters 7 & 8:

Bonhoeffer says Jesus calls us to a concrete faith. We can’t just have faith in general; we must take specific steps of faith – visible, concrete steps. And the steps can’t just be anything; they must be the steps Jesus tells us to take. We can take great risks, thinking they will please Jesus, but unless Jesus initiates them, they are faithless steps…Obedience doesn’t merely reflect faith; obedience leads to faith.

Bonhoeffer has convinced me that the number one reason so many of us are stuck in spiritual immaturity is that we commit to Christ rather than submit to Christ…Commitment still leaves us in control, deciding, according to our own agendas, when or where we’ll serve Jesus. Submission means we yield to the will of Christ and do what he tells us to do day in and day out, altering our lives in obedience to him and his word (Galatians 2:20).

I’m awake now.

Questions to meditate on: 

  1. Am I committed or submitted?
  2. What area in my life needs altering in obedience?
  3. What concrete steps of faith in my past can I look back on and see where my obedience led to faith?

Please leave any comments or stories that might encourage others with their obedience and submission.