The God of all comfort

One of my favorite tongue-twisters in the Bible is this:  Blessed be the God…of all comfort, who comforts us in all of our affliction, so what we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).  Though that verse is hard to say, for us it’s easy to believe, as this has been our experience, as our affliction has been comforted by you, and as it has impelled us to comfort others as you have comforted us.  And all this from the God of all comfort.  Thank You, God, and thank you, praying friends.

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Prayer clothes

Recently I thought of our first parents, Adam and Eve, ashamed and scared by the consequences of their sin, futilely covering themselves with leaves, only to have The God against whom they rebelled generously clothing them with skins.  You and I receive far better, being clothed with the righteousness of God Himself in Christ.  Your prayers are part of that clothing package, encouraging us to clothe ourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ (Rom. 13:14).


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Secret weapons

During one of the low points in Israelite history, when the first lady of the land, Jezebel, was killing off all the prophets, 1 Kings 18:4 records that Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them in two caves.  Later, when Elijah the prophet was alone in a cave, depressed despite great victories over the evil queen and king, he would be encouraged, not only by the still, small voice of the Lord, but also by the presence of these hidden prophets, doing their part for the true Kingdom of God.
You are like those hidden prophets in your intercession, quietly and powerfully encouraging us for whom you pray.  May The Lord add to your number, and encourage you by still others who are praying for you!

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In the wilderness of prayer

As I think of our collective calling to pray, I think of Jesus sent into the wilderness to wrestle with the devil, the principalities and powers, in prayer.  Though He was hungry, lonely, and directly challenged, He continued in an attitude of prayer, inaugurated when the Father said to Him: You are My Son, the Beloved, with You I am well-pleased.  So, as we toil together in prayer, struggling with unsatisfied hungers, with loneliness, and with direct challenges from the enemy, may we continue in prayer, knowing that, in Christ, we, too, are beloved, affiliated, and pleasing.

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…and especially the parchments

One of the great things about the Bible is its authenticity.  Not only is its central message about the crazy-Love Grace of God, something that nobody could ever dream up, but also its honest, direct, and unfiltered method of presentation.
So we read in 2 Timothy 4:13 that Paul is essentially giving Timothy a laundry list of things he’d like to have in his possession, the kind of thing that a truly “religious” book (the one that Hollywood might dream up) would never include, as, for example, “bring the cloak”.
But there’s a little phrase that I’m glad to see:  Paul asks Timothy to bring Paul’s scrolls, “and especially the parchments”.  Though the Living Translations renders this “papers”, I believe it refers to the portions of the Scriptures, written on parchment — sheepskin — which Paul had in his possession.  No doubt these were precious to him, especially in his difficult situation. As you pray for others, ask God to give them that same desire for the parchments, the Bible, that they would be precious to them, for it is they that point to Him, the Author and Source of Life.

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Hand-holding

When the Israelites were traveling through the desert on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land, they were attacked by the Amalekites at Rephidim.  Moses sent Joshua and others into battle, and then went to the top of a hill with Aaron and Hur to lift up his arms in prayer over the scene.  The Book of Exodus says, As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning; but whenever he lowered his hands, the Amalekites were winning.  When Moses’ hands grew tired, they took a stone and put it under him and he sat on it.  Aaron and Hur held his hands up — one on one side, one on the other — so that his hands remained steady until sunset.As Intercessors, you are like Aaron and Hur, placing yourselves and those you are praying for on the Rock of Jesus Christ, holding each other’s hands to lift up prayers to the Lord.  As you do so, you enter into the battle we fight together against the world, the flesh, and the devil might win in the Name of Jesus.  Thank you for holding hands in prayer so that we might win the spiritual battle in His Name!

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Prayer Bargain

There are two recorded prayers of Jacob in the Scriptures.  The first is in Genesis 28:20-22, and is essentially a Prayer Bargain.  Having just been given the dream revelation of a ladder to heaven with God giving him great promises, Jacob, ever the “trickster” at this point prays a bargain with God:  If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey…and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely…then the Lord will be my God, and this stone which I have set up as a pillar will be God’s House, and of all that You give me I will give You a tenth.  Notice all that Jacob expects from God — Presence, protection, provision — in return for Jacob’s worship, augmented by the offering of a simple stone and a simple tithe.  This kind of “bargain prayer” cost Jacob little, and yet ultimately was honored by God.  But it certainly isn’t a model prayer, one in which we ask God to do good for us and then, and only then, offer to worship Him in a small way.  In the materialistic culture in which we swim, this often becomes our bargain basement practice of prayer. May we rather emulate Jacob’s second recorded prayer in Genesis 32:9-12 (more on that next week).

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The Centurion’s Prayer

Jesus was, and still is, amazing!  But Jesus was, and still is, seldom amazed, except on two occasions in the Scriptures.  In one, He is amazed at the lack of faith of the people in His hometown of Nazareth,.  In another, He is amazed at the depth of faith of a Roman centurion.  This foreigner approaches Jesus, asking Him for help with one of his servants suffering with paralysis.  This alone is notable, in that a man of cultural distinction and military power should care enough about a lowly servant to approach this strange Rabbi with a request for help.  But when Jesus offers to visit the home to heal, the centurion offers this prayer:
Lord, I do not deserve to have You come under my roof.  But just say the word, and my servant will be healed (Matthew 8:8).  Though the centurion reasons his position on the basis of how a man of authority, such as he, and such as He sees in Jesus, can just say a word in order to make things happen, Jesus commends not his reason but his faith, saying I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith (Matthew 8:10).
Do we, the People of Jesus, recognize His Supreme Authority, and do we call upon Him in that Faith?  If we pray in accord with The Word of God, and in concert with what we believe are the present-day words of Jesus interceding at The Father’s Side, then it should be our privilege and responsibility to pray with such confidence.  In fact, in the Roman Catholic Eucharistic liturgy, this centurion’s prayer is altered to read:Lord, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.  May we pray similarly for others, and for ourselves.

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The Joy of The Lord

As I was with a group of believing men tonight, and we were asked what we thought Jesus’ attitude was to whatever joy or happiness we feel, I was reminded of His Joy in the 72 missionaries who returned to Him.  As recorded in Luke 10:17, the seventy-two returned with joy, and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your Name”.  They had been sent by Jesus to prepare the way for Him in every town and place where He was about to go (vs. 1).  He encouraged them to settle in with the people of peace in those places, to heal the sick and to proclaim the Kingdom (vss. 8-9).  And He told them that whoever would listen to them would listen to Him (vs. 16).  Apparently, all this, and more, occurred, and on their return, Jesus shared in their joy, saying I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven (vs. 18).  Though He would eventually add a deeper dimension to that joy, I believe He and they joyfully heard the stories about all that they, and therefore He and His Father, had done.  Their joy was certainly full, but not complete without what eventually followed:  He said, do not rejoice [so much] that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven (vs. 20).  Rather than a rebuke of their joy, which He shared in, this was an encouragement to a deeper joy, one that is not dependent upon success, or happiness, or anything but The Love of God.  So, in whatever ways you rejoice in a healthy way, know that Jesus rejoices with you, but also that the Joy of the Lord is full in knowing that you will rejoice with him now, and forever.

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God’s “Come Over” Prayers

God sometimes issues the most surprising summons in prayer.  Among them are the “come over here” prayers.  As recorded in Acts 16, St. Paul intended to revisit churches in Asia to strengthen them.  But The Holy Spirit prevented him from doing so, in several ways, until he received a nighttime vision/dream of a man of Macedonia begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”  As such, he decided to “come over” to territory which had not yet heard the gospel, among them the city of Philippi.  The same kind of thing happened to St. Patrick after his escape from slavery in Ireland.  Back home in Wales, he “heard” the voice of the Irish saying, “we beg you, holy shepherd, come and walk among us again.”  And so began the most remarkable return to Ireland, eventually as a bishop, and a more remarkable conversion of an entire pagan people.


I believe that, today, these “come over” prayers are being issued by God once again.  All over the U.S. we are hearing stories of nonbelievers having remarkable encounters with God and with the believers whom He sends over to guide them, much as He did with Philip who went to a eunuch on a desert road, having been summoned there in prayer by God.  While we in the church are understandably concerned about rebuilding God’s church and flock within, perhaps we need to look and listen for ways He wishes to do so without, with those sheep that are not of our fold that He must bring in.  Will we be attentive to His “come over” prayers for these most unlikely people all around us?   Will we be stunned like the prophet Jonah who saw the multitudes in Nineveh, who didn’t know their right hand from their left, but who were more ready than the prophet realized to repent and turn to the Lord?  Or will just hide in our safe places, or perhaps just run away from God altogether?

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