Beliefnet
Prayer, Plain and Simple

“From the ends of the earth I cry to you for help when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the towering rock of safety, for you are my safe refuge, a fortress where my enemies cannot reach me. Let me live forever in your sanctuary, safe beneath the shelter of your wings” (Psalm 61:2-4).

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Are you in a season in your life where you’d just like to hide, escaping off the devil’s radar, fleeing from the fray for even just a day?

There is a place of safety.

The presence of God provides us with a hiding place, but how do we access this safety?

Through thanks and praise! We can usher in the presence of the Holy Spirit simply by calling on His name with gratitude in our hearts, with faith in His nature and goodness, with acceptance of His Lordship over the details of our lives, knowing that in His hands, our lives are complete.

This is the best way to resist the devil: we oppose his attacks by subjecting the enemy to our heartfelt gratitude to God. Demons don’t dare stick around to listen to us recite God’s great works in our lives; they will flee, terrorized by the Truth of God’s victorious power at work, even when the current issue for which we are contending is unresolved.

We are only a breath away from victory if that breath is interlaced with the Spirit of God through praise and thanks.

“He will place me out of reach on a high rock” (Psalm 27:5).

Jesus is the Rock of our salvation and when we run to Him, lean on Him, and declare the power of His name over our situation, the devil is literally unable to access us. His arm is just not long enough. Contrast that with Isaiah 59:1. “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save…” The arm of the Lord can reach any person, any circumstance, any problem. How long is God’s arm? Long enough! There is nothing nor no one out of His reach.

“I pray to you, O Lord. I say, ‘You are my place of refuge. You’re all I really want in life’” (Psalm 142:5).

If we want this victory, this place of safety, we need to check our priorities. The Psalmist summarized his longings best: “Ultimately, Lord, as much as I want deliverance from my troubles, I want You more.”

Personally, we are in a spiritual battle in our family. Recently, in the middle of worship at our church, the Lord whispered to my spirit, “Do you long for Me more than you long for your deliverance?” I had to stop and consider that, for His asking me warranted a need for self-examination. As Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me more than these?” this led to repentance on my part and a new perspective, a new look at my priorities. I want to make sure that I long for Jesus, for relationship with Him, for friendship with Him more than I long for anything else in this world, even when that thing I’m longing for is very, very good. Even when that thing is most certainly His will. Ultimately, I want to want Him more.

“Rescue me from my enemies, Lord; I run to you to hide me” (Psalm 143:9).

The Psalmist describes coming into God’s presence with speed. We run into Him, for the enemies in our lives are real and they hate us with a vicious hatred, ready to quickly kill us, steal from us, and ruin our lives to destruction. Running into His presence depicts urgency and priority.

See Mark Run. Run, Jill, Run!

Are you in need of a break from the battle? Do you feel exposed to the enemy’s taunts and it seems he is unrelenting in his attacks over your life and family? Run, don’t walk. Make this plain and simple declaration today.

Father,

I declare Your goodness over my life. While I recognize that some of my deepest prayers are pending in the courts of Heaven, You have provided answers to my cry again and again.

Lord, I thank You for the victory You have given …[list specific things He has done for you in the past few years… be specific… take time to write them down!]

Your Word stands true over every situation in my life. I refuse to be overwhelmed by the battle I am facing today. I refuse to be impressed by anything but Your grace and mercy manifest in my life everyday.

Your love is stronger than any force in the universe. Your love has been shown to me in too many ways to count. But Lord, I recite your great acts of love towards me. You have not abandoned me; You have not left me as an orphan. You don’t treat me as such, for I am Your child. And when I run to You, all fear has to flee. You turn my mourning into dancing. You exchange my nightmares for dreams. You have given me something to shout about, something to dance about, something to celebrate: You Love Me! And You will never relent in Your love.

So I run to You; I hide beneath Your loving shadow, my defense, my strong tower of safety.

“I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until the danger passes by” (Psalm 57:1b).

Thank you for being my safe place, for making me invisible to the enemy. Eventually this attack will subside. Eventually we will win, for ultimately You have already won this. For that, I give You thanks with a shout of praise!

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

 

 

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“But straightway Jesus spoke to them saying, ‘Be of good cheer. It is I. Be not afraid’” (Matthew 14:27).

“In this world you shall have tribulation. But be of good cheer. I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

“Be of good cheer, for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me” (Acts 27:25).

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Two of our favorite characters in literature are the Cheeryble brothers from Dickens’ Nicholas Nickelby. Their kindness plays a part in the restoration of the lives of a number of the story’s beloved characters. “Cheery” would be the best descriptive word for these identical twins. They live a cheery lifestyle, speak cheer, and tirelessly spread cheer to those around them. I don’t know if Dickens based them on real, living souls from his flesh and bone world, or if they came skipping out of that brilliant imagination of his. Either way, whenever I read that book, I fall in love with the Cheeryble brothers again and wish to be more like them.

“Be of good cheer,” is a phrase Jesus speaks in Scripture to a sick man without hope, to his disciples when they were afraid, and to Paul when he was desperate for reassurance. It simply means, “Take courage.”

Jesus offers us courage in fearful circumstances. He embodies courage, He holds courage out in His hands to us saying, “Take it. It’s mine to give, and it’s yours to receive.”

Are you facing a hopeless situation? Are you afraid for your future?

Instead of trembling, reach out your hand to Jesus. He is stretching His towards you. Take the courage that He has for you today. In faith reach your hand up to His, and…

…pray this plain and simple prayer…

Father,

I have lost my courage. I cannot seem to find a way out of the torment of fear. The future looks too difficult to step into, yet Jesus has beckoned me to, “Take courage.”

In faith I reach my hand up to His. I feel the warmth of His skin on mine, and I receive the flow of His courage, for mine was depleted long ago.

I take it. I drink in His courage. I receive it now along with the strength to step moment by moment into the future, for I know that whatever I face I will not face alone. Whatever I face I will face with Him, the Giver of the grace and courage and strength that I need to live this life.

I will walk with cheer. I will hum a tune. I will live a counter-intuitive lifestyle of cheer in difficult circumstances, for You would never ask me to do something that You aren’t empowering me to do in the first place.

So I sing.

And I will dance.

I will enjoy this day like You have called me to as I lay aside all fear and sorrow.

In Jesus’ Name and by His grace I will be of Good Cheer.

Amen

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“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Ephesians 4:29).

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What do you say to a friend in pain, to someone who’s lost a loved one, or been diagnosed with a terminal disease, or who’s been struck with something devastating? Do you offer advise? Small talk? Or perhaps avoid them altogether?

We can learn a thing or two from Job’s famous friends. Better yet, we can learn from their example what not to do. Job’s life was in shambles; his children had been killed in a severe storm, his health had deteriorated, he seemed to be on the next train to his grave, and he had nothing left to live for, save a wife who didn’t seem to be a lot of help, dealing with her own grief and pain as she was. In all this, Job did not abandon God, though his wife seemed to suggest that he do so.

Job had a handful of friends who surrounded him. At first they sat with him in silence, they listened to him, and they might have quit while they were ahead. Instead, after a time, they opened up their mouths to offer their opinions freely, comprehensively, ad nauseum.

Not a single word was helpful.

Unless you’ve been through a time in your life where you’ve been tempted to pray Psalm 22: “My God, why have you forsaken me?” you’re probably not going to be able to walk beside a friend who feels abandoned by God without some coaching.

Job gave his friends some very helpful insights as to what his emotional needs were at that point. We would do well to heed his advice, for we never know when we will need it – when our friend will need us. Our words will either be helpful or not. Let’s shoot for the former. Let’s take Job’s advice to heart, so we can be true friends to those in need.

“If only you could be silent! That’s the wisest thing you could do.” Job 13:5

Job politely asked his friends to quit offering advice. A person dealing with trauma doesn’t need to hear your chain of consciousness nor your great solutions. You just aren’t qualified, and they know that. They simply need to know you’re there. Just a squeeze of the hand, a moment of eye contact, a look of empathy will go far beyond words of advice or even consolation. Sometimes there simply is no capacity for consolation.

“What makes you keep on talking? I could say the same things if you were in my place. I could spout off criticism and shake my head at you.” Job 16:3-5

Job’s friends were gloating; their religious notions led them to believe that when bad things happen, the unfortunate recipient must deserve them. Their words had a critical edge. Their body language bespoke pride; they looked down on this unfortunate friend, pleased as punch that it was he that was suffering and not they. They assumed that Job must deserve this medicine he was forced to consume.

When we encounter a friend who is grieving, we must never assume their problems are their fault. We must never look down on them for having them or criticize them in any way. Our body language should never be that of impatience or intolerance for their current situation. It must be the only the Spirit of Jesus, which is love…peace…kindness…and gentleness.

“But if it were me, I would encourage you. I would try to take away your grief.” Job 16:5

Here Job gives us the best possible advice for helping our friends who are struggling:  offer genuine encouragement; seek to lighten their load rather than add to it, as Job’s friends unfortunately succeeded at doing.

Encouragement can come in both verbals and non-verbals. Encouragement is offering and enabling courage in the heart and soul of another. But, remember, we don’t need to say much. Encouragement can be most effective in small doses. Like too much salt, too many words – even encouraging ones – can wreck the recipe.

Do you have a friend in need, but you have no idea how to help? Perhaps you have been avoiding him or her, for fear of how to broach the subject of their pain. If so, pray this plain and simple prayer with us today…

Father,

Jesus modeled friendship in the very best of ways. He is the closest friend of the broken-hearted. Lord, my friend’s heart is broken, and I just don’t know how to help, so I’m coming to You, the giver of wisdom. I want to be the heart and hands of Jesus to my friend, but I don’t know how.

Give me a heart of humility. Correct any false notions or prideful thoughts that what they have encountered is somehow due to their own folly. Folly! It is not my job on the planet to understand those things!

Put a guard over my mouth. Help me to say only what is helpful for building my friend up. As Jesus only said what He heard the Father say, I wish to say only what the Holy Spirit whispers in my ear.

You know my friend much better than I. Please tell me what to say and how to say it. Help me to bring encouragement, to lighten the load, and to offer whatever I can do to bring help in their time of need.

As I wait on You now, I am trusting You to speak clearly to me, and I will follow Your instructions.

In all this, Lord, I lift my friend up to You in prayer. I ask that You would grant him/her comfort, consolation, and relief from pain and anguish of soul. Use me in this endeavor, Lord.

In Jesus’ Name,

Amen

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“Then what should I do with Jesus…?” Matthew 27:23

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It was the best of Fridays. It was the worst of Fridays. It was the sleepy, early morning hours of the first Good Friday – the “real” Good Friday. Pilate wondered what in the world he was going to do with this man named Jesus, hated by the Jews whom Pilate was obliged to appease politically. Pilate was now confronted with executing this innocent man. His wife awoke and begged her husband to release Him; her nightmares ruffled her enough to want nothing to do with Him whose case was laid at her husband’s doorsteps early that morning.

Jesus was in Pilate’s hands. Pilate’s question is profound. It is one we should ask ourselves today and, indeed, everyday.

“What should I do with Jesus?”

C.S. Lewis said there are three possible ways of viewing Jesus:

  1. He’s a liar
  2. He’s mentally incompetent – a lunatic
  3. He is Who He says He is

What, my friend, are you going to do with Jesus? Who is He to you? Open up the gospels, and do some research. Who is this man? What did He come to do? Why did He die? What does that have to do with you or me?

In a sense, Jesus is in your hands. What will you do with Him?

If you are curious about Jesus, pray this plain and simple prayer with us.

God,

Please show me and teach me who Jesus is. Who is this man? How can I understand His importance? And what does His life have to do with mine?

What should I do with Him? Or even better yet, what does He want to do with me?

I want to start this journey of faith; please open up my heart to comprehend who He is and what He wants to do in my life.

In Jesus’ Name

Amen

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