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

He Is My Guide

(Day 7 in a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

We have entered a season of Trial and Tribulations. The Trials consist of the decisions we made in our lives. The Tribulations that have occurred in this season have made us stronger than before. We start to wonder, “Am I being tested?”

I have to remind myself, “I know who is before, and I know who stands behind me.” I’ve been dealing with loyalty, trust issues, bad habits, back stabbing, identity, loneliness, and losing myself in Christ. I have to decide whether I want to be “The World’s Sheep” or “Jesus’ Sheep.”

I noticed God started to give me what I wanted. He took away my distractions. He took away the people who caused me pain. He calmed my anxiety, mixed with stress and depression. He’s showing me salvation and redemption. I want to receive it.

Do you feel as though God is silent towards you? You need to pray and talk to him. He wants a conversation out of you. Do you feel as though you are being tested? Pray. God will show you the right way. You should not rush, for God knows what you need and when you need it. God might not come when YOU want him, but God is ALWAYS on time! Do you trust God? You should ALWAYS trust God, because we know he is a Good, Good Father!

Trust in God when things don’t look good. He will be your guide. 2 Kings 18-19

By Shanti M. Washington

His Word, His Way

(Day 6 of a 28-day series from First Bradenton)

Nebuchadnezzar asked them, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, is it true that you don’t serve my gods or worship the gold statue I have set up? Now if you’re ready, when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, lyre, harp, drum, and every kind of music, fall down and worship the statue I made. But if you don’t worship it, you will immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire—and who is the god who can rescue you from my power?” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to the king, “Nebuchadnezzar, we don’t need to give you an answer to this question. If the God we serve exists, then he can rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he can rescue us from the power of you, the king. But even if he does not rescue us, we want you as king to know that we will not serve your gods or worship the gold statue you set up.” Daniel 3:14-18 (CSB)

In this passage, the young men Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego display an exemplary level of faith. They tell the king in no uncertain terms that they trust God to be able to rescue them from the current threat and any other that the king could give. They know that He is powerful enough to save them from the furnace, and they believe that He will because He is a good God. But they go further than that.

These three were no longer children; they had grown up during exile from their homeland. They were surrounded by a culture that was contrary to their faith, but they did not waiver. They were willing to throw themselves into the Father’s arms regardless of the outcome.

They declare to the king that they would not stop following God even if they knew that He would not save them from the furnace. They believe that God is good regardless of their own circumstances or outcomes. They believe that following the one true God is more important than their own safety, because His word is true, and His ways are right. Just like a young child, these young men trust God entirely.

As adults we know that life is hard, and trials come. Even so, our prayers should reflect our belief that we can trust Him no matter what. We can throw ourselves headlong into His care, knowing that whatever happens, He will be glorified, and we are already saved. As we pray, we know that we can trust him, because His word is true, and His ways are right.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

Let this blessed assurance control,

That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,

And hath shed his own blood for my soul.

“It Is Well with My Soul”

By Kyle Reilly

Under Construction 

James wrote, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”

Patience. Who wants it? Who needs it? Apparently we all should and do, when we are looking for God’s completeness.

My devotional reading today included an illustration of a ministry leader pointing to a completed building project and saying that the building built him. Which led me to this question: Who or what has or is building me?

Looking at a trial with that question in mind should steer the mind and emotions away from making the experience about something that God didn’t intend. We can look at trials very horizontally when God intends all things to be viewed vertically. Vertical lookers ask where is God building, what is He building in me, in the organization, in the community, or in this relationship. Horizontal lookers ask how could God allow this, how could they treat me like that, where is the justice, or what were they thinking.

When the horizontal view has robbed you of your joy, step back. Look at “the construction.” Ask God what are the plans, what is He building in you. Then reply, “Thank you. You are in charge. You are wiser than I am. I look forward to your completed work.”