Intentional Prayer | SO BE IT
Monday— I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4
Since the turn of the millennium, anxiety and depression disorders have continued to rise. But since the pandemic, those numbers have skyrocketed. Some polls show that the percentage of afflicted American adults is over 40%. And no wonder. Fear is peddled from Washington, from the media, from headlines, and from those around us. “Have you heard the latest scandal… forecast…prediction…corruption…?” they ask and our hearts lurch even as our ears perk up. We see society crumbling and feel helpless. It’s as though a storehouse of fear is poised to dump on us with the next thought, word, or event.
That’s exactly what this Psalm says. The Hebrew word used for “fears” actually means storehouse. This Psalmist is praising God who torched his storehouse full of fear and set him free. And why did God do that? Because he sought the LORD. When the word LORD is in all caps, it refers to the proper name of Yahweh. In other words, praying to the universe, positive vibes, or our own self-created gods won’t do us any good. Having faith in faith is useless. Seeking the LORD means we press in to the only uncreated One in prayer and worship. We claim Him as our only anchor in the storm. Our refuge in trouble. If He doesn’t deliver us, we’re doomed. God never offers to be one of many solutions. He claims the right to be our ONLY hope, and His promises our ONLY life-preservers. Seeking the LORD means we throw ourselves on His mercy and admit we’re dismal failures at life. Without Him, we can’t do it. Then, even if circumstances don’t change, our storehouses of fear are torched.
Challenge: Do you have a storehouse of fear? You’re not alone. Seek the LORD and He will deliver you from all your fears.
Prayer: Yahweh, I struggle with so much fear: my future, my finances, my children, my nation… It all seems so bleak at times. But I seek you now as my only source. I will trust your grace and your promises. Deliver me from fear. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Tuesday— Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. Mark 1:35
“Sure I pray!” cried Barb. “I pray every day on my way to work while I’m putting on my mascara! How can you say I don’t pray?”
“I pray too,” growled Ev. “I pray in the shower while I’m listening to the traffic report. Me’n God talk a lot.”
“I pray in church on Sundays,” said Lois. “I believe there’s a right and wrong way to do it and I want to be sure I’m heard.”
People have different views on prayer, but none of them matter. Only God’s view matters and Jesus showed us what that looks like. Jesus was God in the flesh, but He prayed a LOT. Early in the morning, when no one was around (Luke 4:42), before He fed thousands of people (Mark 6:41), before facing a horrendous ordeal (Matt. 26:39), and when He just wanted to spend time with His Father (John 17). Every healthy relationship must have two-way communication. If we’re not intentional about spending time with the other person, we’re communicating a message we don’t mean to convey. We’re saying, “I don’t value you.” It’s no different with God. He commands us to pray to Him so that we’re continually reminded who and what really matters. Intentional prayer keeps us in line with God’s viewpoint and communicates this message: YOU, Lord, matter most to me.
Challenge: How intentional are you about meeting with the Lord every day?
Prayer: Father, I shouldn’t need structured prayers in order to talk to you, but that shows how out of practice I am. I’m ready to be intentional about my prayer time because I greatly value our relationship. I’m starting today. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Wednesday— When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” Mark 1:37
This statement by the disciples reminds us of another time Jesus was rebuked for spending time with His Father. Mary and Joseph said the same thing when He was 12 years old (Luke 2:48): “Where were you! We’ve been looking for you!” Those words imply a subtle reprimand: “Our agenda is more important than whatever you were doing.” Of course, no one said that, but that’s what they meant. We may not say it either, but that’s often what we mean: “Why do we have to go to church? We’re on vacation!” Or, “See you after baseball (soccer, basketball, football…) season, Pastor. Kids’ tournaments, you know.”
Earthly concerns can be a whirlwind as we try to stay on top of everything. We may not realize it, but we’re often guilty of letting the world—not God—dictate our schedules. To avoid that, we need to frequently interrogate ourselves: Why do I believe I must do this? Does it have eternal significance? Will anyone be in heaven because of this? Much of what we do is based on other people’s expectations. Where we go, what kind of car we drive, kids’ activities, and the size of our house are all subject to the priorities of our culture. But God expects His people to make decisions that reflect HIS priorities. We learn those priorities when we spend time with Him. As we pray through a situation, seek His guidance, and purpose to trust His word, we realize that His opinion is the only one that matters. We won’t need to look for Him if we’ve stayed beside Him the whole time.
Challenge: Whose priorities are most represented by your schedule: God’s or someone else’s?
Prayer: Father, I haven’t taken a hard look at my schedule in a while and maybe it’s time I do. If I’m excusing prayerlessness because I’m too busy, then my priorities are messed up. Show me how to straighten them out. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Thursday— Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit… Luke 4:14
The power of the Spirit! Don’t we ALL want that? God’s own strength, wisdom, and courage flowing through us—what could be better? So let’s look closer at how Jesus got it. Philippians 2 tells us that before He came to earth, Jesus emptied Himself of all His rights as God. So whatever power He used on earth came from the Holy Spirit, not his own deity (John 5:30). Imagine having a superpower but not allowing yourself to use it. Tougher than splitting an atom with a butter knife. So He spent a lot of time in prayer, intentionally communicating with God the Father so that everything He did was only through the power of the Spirit.
We want the power He had, but do we pursue the relationship He had? Do we spend the amount of time in prayer that He did? It wasn’t a burden to Him; it was a necessity, just like eating regularly is a necessity to us. Prayer was His only access to God and all He’d left behind when He entered our realm. Prayer is our only access too. Before we can operate in the power of the Holy Spirit, we must also empty ourselves of everything: our agendas, opinions, ideas about how life should go, and our right to be our own boss. The Holy Spirit will not compete with us. Until we let go of whatever piddly power we think we have, we can’t operate in the power of the Spirit. We access His power in prayer, emptying ourselves and being filled with Him.
Challenge: Are you living in the power of the Holy Spirit or in your own power?
Prayer: Father, I’ve slipped in a lot of areas and I’m trying to live by my own power. It’s not enough. I recommit myself to seeking your power in prayer, fellowship, and surrender. May it be said of me that I lived by the power of the Spirit. Amen.
Friday— But know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD hears when I call to him. Psalm 4:3
“Why pray,” moaned Greg. “I prayed and God didn’t heal my mom. I prayed and I still lost my job. I don’t think He hears me anyway. He’s got all those preachers and missionaries to listen to. Why would He hear me?” Rob shut off his bike engine and leaned against it, folding beefy arms over his massive chest. “You nuts?” he demanded. “Lord’s the only reason I’m here right now. See these prison tats?” He began to point to the ink that covered most of his body. “That ‘un there’s for knifing a guy, and this un’s for my kids I don’t see…” He looked up. “If the Lord’ll hear a guy like me crying in his own vomit, He’ll hear you.”
Sounds good, Rob. But then we read verses like the one above about the Lord hearing “the godly,” and we shake our heads. “That’s not me,” we think and flip the page. But wait! Flip back. Remember David who penned this verse would soon steal another man’s wife and have the husband killed to cover it. If David’s definition of godly matched ours, he disqualified himself as he wrote. So he must have meant something different. God’s definition of “godly” is anyone who seeks Him for Himself. Anyone who sees sin for what it is and hates it. Hates when he does it; hates what it does to God, and repents of it. “The godly” does not mean “the perfect.” It means that the Lord knows the direction of our hearts and listens when the godly call.
Challenge: You are “the godly” this verse mentions if the direction of your heart is to seek Him for Himself.
Prayer: Father, it’s hard to think of myself as “godly,” when I know what I’ve done. But faith in Jesus is what makes me godly and I want to please and honor Him. So thank you for inviting me to call to you. I know you’ll hear. In Jesus’ name, amen.