The Most Easily Overlooked Prayer

Recently I had an aha moment! It happened while I was going through my prayer list of people for whom I pray regularly. The list, which has grown to over a hundred people, includes family members, relatives, friends and those who serve in the ministry and as missionaries. Since they are people I consider as given to me by God, just as Jesus viewed those the Father had given Him, I have been using His John 17 prayer as a model for similar ways to pray for them. (See Pray Like Jesus for Family and Friends)

As I was praying I heard the Holy Spirit whisper to me “Do you know what people in your life are missing from this list?” Pause . . . . “Your enemies.” I thought to myself, “But why would I want to pray for them, they’ve hurt me?” But no sooner had that thought formed as a bubble poised above my head than a pin prick of truth from the Bible popped it. The words of Jesus came darting into the picture “But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you.” (Luke 5:27-28) Ouch!

The Knot of Forgiveness

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?” “No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!” Matthew 18:21-22 NLT

This is a “Good News” passage of Scripture because it gives us a glimpse into the forgiving nature of God. The underlying message of this interchange between Jesus and Peter is that God is much more prone and committed to forgiveness than we are. The phrase “seventy times seven” is a figure of speech indicating there is no real limit as to how many times a person’s sin will be forgiven. While it is a challenge to the likes of Peter who must forgive the repeated sinner, it is wonderful news for those who struggle with the shame of repeated sin.

As Shakespeare said so eloquently “To err is human; to forgive [is] divine.” Much of human experience is designed to convince us of our need for the divine. There is nothing like our human depravity to drive us to acknowledge the desperate need for a forgiveness that is divine.

4 Ways to Overcome Temptation

I heard a great sermon in church last Sunday. The topic was almost as hot as the near record setting temperatures outside. It was on temptation. The message was a real eye opener for me and deeply convicting. But it wasn’t anything the preacher said. It happened that I was an audience of one listening to what the congregation was saying to me as I stood behind the pulpit. Through feedback from six interactive questions I gained some incredible insight into the insidious power of temptation and most effective ways to combat it. When Paul said that “no temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man” he wasn’t just talking through his hat. (1 Corinthians 10:13) Nine out of ten people in the room told me that they are presently battling temptations in their lives. And eight out of ten admitted that it is a reoccurring temptation that they have not been able to resist. Seeing those polling results brought home the stark realization that at any given time, most godly people are locked in a spiritual battle against an enemy of their souls.

It really should not be a surprise when we consider that from the very beginning of time a colossal war been waged between the forces of good and evil, righteousness and sin, God and the devil. From Genesis chapter three onward the devil has been scheming up ways to tempt us to eat forbidden fruit and rob us of an intimate relationship with our creator.

But his insidious strategies are not limited only to the lure and captivity of sin. He also is a relentless “accuser of the brethren” who works with might and main to keep those who confess their sin imprisoned in guilt and shame. (Revelation 12:10)

Over half of our congregation this past Sunday said they were still battling guilt and shame for a sin they had confessed and been forgiven. That is a disquieting yet not surprising fact as well. All of us at one time or other has those same struggles and we are not alone. (For more on this see “Dealing with the Stain of Sin”)

The secret to getting up again

The godly may trip seven times, but they will get up again. (Proverbs 24:16 NLT)

Two winters ago I was on a jog through our neighborhood after a light dusting of snow. Just one block from home I slipped on a hidden patch of ice and went sprawling forward onto the sidewalk. It was a jarring experience and after confirming nothing was broken I picked myself up and gingerly walked the rest of the way home. That fall caused me to change my winter running habits. I made a decision then and there to limit my running to indoors on a treadmill unless the footing outside was clearly ice free.

Falls are scary because of the potential harm they can wreck in a person’s life. As true as that is for physical stumbles, it is often even more impacting with spiritual ones. For one thing spiritual falls are more common. And the nature of spiritual falls frequently hinders people from getting back up and running again.

There are many causes for spiritual stumbles. Sin of course tops the list. But things like relationship conflicts, worldly distractions, disappointments and a failure to maintain spiritual disciplines all contribute to causing slips and trips spiritually. Spiritual stumbles lead to discouragement, condemnation and ultimately feeling estranged from God. All that contributes to a sense of unworthiness which is probably the biggest factor hindering a person from recovering from a stumble.

Overcoming all that can be a challenge. But there is a secret to getting back up again. And it has to do with understanding what it means to have our spiritual identity “in Christ.” Spiritual falls, much more frequently than physical falls, cause us to have spiritual amnesia. It is as if every time we take a spiritual tumble we hit our head, and as a result forget who we are.

Scroll to Top