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The Word For Today

When Jesus prayed 4



'Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you.' Luke 22:31-32 NIV

Jesus prayed when he was concerned about the people he loved. He told Peter: 'Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you...that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers' (Luke 22:31-31 NIV). And Peter did turn back. The disciple who denied his Lord in a moment of weakness eventually stood before a crowd of thousands and preached the Gospel to them, and three thousand were won to Christ.

Jesus not only taught his disciples, he warned them of danger. But ultimately he realised that the greatest thing he could do was pray for them. Unfortunately, that's a truth we tend to arrive at later rather than sooner. We promise, we rescue, we threaten, and only when all our other efforts have failed do we pray. Prayer shouldn't be your last resort, it should be your first response. Prayer takes the situation out of your hands and puts it into God's.

Do you remember the four men who carried their sick friend and laid him at the feet of Jesus? (See Mark 2:3-5). That's what you do when you pray for someone. It's not easy to pick up the weight of another person and carry them to God each day in prayer. But it's the most effective thing you can do for them. The old-timers used to say, 'Prayer moves the hand that moves the world.' And they were right! When a loved one disappoints or wounds you, instead of lashing out, lift them up in prayer. Invite God into the situation, then stand back and allow him to work.

Soulfood: 1 Sam 8-10, Matt 22:15-22, Ps 95, Prov 16:31-33

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When Jesus prayed 3



'He departed to the mountain to pray.' Mark 6:46 NKJV

Let's look at another point at which Jesus prayed: when the pressures and expectations of others threatened to derail God's plan for his life. The Bible says: 'While it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: "Everyone is looking for you!" Jesus replied, "Let us go somewhere else - to the nearby villages - so I can preach there also. That is why I have come." So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching' (Mark 1:35-39 NIV).

The lesson here is this: Unless you get God's plan and stick with it, others will try to plan your life for you. Given the success Jesus enjoyed in every town he visited, many preachers would have stayed and built a church and enjoyed the accolades and rewards of their ministry. Not Jesus; he marched to the beat of a different drum.

As you look back on some of your mistakes, you find decisions made in response to pressure instead of prayer. When you're prayerless you get careless. God has a plan for your life, and a schedule. To stay in sync with both you must pray regularly. Jesus realised he had only enough time to do what his Father wanted done, and that gave him the ability to say no to other things. You've been called to love people - but please God. And your confidence in prayer comes from knowing you're operating within his will (see 1 John 3:21-22 NIV).

Soulfood: 1 Sam 4-7, Matt 22:1-14, Ps 64, Prov 16:26-30

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When Jesus prayed 2



'He went...to a solitary place; and...prayed.' Mark 1:35 NKJV

By failing to pray - you set yourself up to fail. The reason Jesus never failed is because he never failed to pray. Note the times when he prayed: when his heart was heavy. During his ministry on earth, his cousin John the Baptist was arrested and publicly beheaded for confronting a king about his sin. 'When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew...privately to a solitary place' (Matthew 14:13 NIV). Disappointment, desertion, divorce and death will write their chapters in the book of our lives. Thank God for therapists and doctors, but ultimately there's no one who can heal a broken heart like God. 'He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power' (Psalm 147:3-5 NIV).

Whether placing stars or healing scars, no situation is too big or too small to get the attention of our loving God. To understand God's healing expertise, look at the life of Job. Possibly no one in history lost more than Job did, yet God brought him through it all. In Job chapter 11 we read: 'You will forget your misery; it will be like water flowing away. Your life will be brighter than the noonday. Even darkness will be as bright as morning. Having hope will give you courage. You will be protected and will rest in safety. You will lie down unafraid, and many will look to you for help' (Job 11:16-19 NLT).

Are you sad and heavy-hearted today? Do what Jesus did. Take time to pray about it.

Soulfood: 1 Sam 1-3, Matt 21:33-46, Ps 59:9-17, Prov 16:23-26

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When Jesus prayed 1

'Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.' Luke 5:16 NIV

If you want to know about prayer, examine the life of Jesus: (1) He prayed when the pressures of life increased. 'News about him spread...so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed...But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed' (Luke 5:15-16 NIV). It's when you think you don't have time to pray, that you need to pray most. Spending time with God is the secret to having power with him. (2) He prayed when important decisions had to be made. When it came to picking his closest friends, Jesus sought his Father's guidance. He 'went out to a mountainside...and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve...[as] apostles' (Luke 6:12-13 NIV). 

When you really think about it - the truth hits you up the side of the head! We can spend a year, not to mention a small fortune, planning a wedding. Yet amazingly we won't seek God's guidance when it comes to choosing a mate to spend the rest of our life with. 

God is not just the creator of the universe; he's the CEO who runs it. Can you imagine what he knows about operating a successful business? His r?sum? reads: 'I am the Lord...who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way you should go' (Isaiah 48:17 NKJV). Before you hire an employee, form a partnership, formulate a plan, or invest a penny, God invites you to discuss it with him and get his input. 'Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take' (Proverbs 3:6 NLT).

Soulfood: Song 5-8, Matt 21:18-32, Ps 59:1-8, Prov 16:20-22

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What will you be remembered for



'Those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever.' Daniel 12:3 NLT

Dr. James Kennedy wrote: 'Consider the great pyramid of Giza, one of the world's most massive structures. Someone built it as a memorial to himself...King Khufu, not exactly a household name! The Shah of India built the Taj Mahal as a tribute to his wife, yet he too built in vain; after all, who knows the name Arjumand? And how about the Great Wall of China? Astronauts can see it from space, yet no one remembers Qin Shihuang, who was initially responsible for the largest manmade structure in the world. While these people are all forgotten, you can make a permanent imprint on the world. How? By leading others to Christ!'

The Bible says, 'Those who lead many to righteousness will shine like the stars forever' (Daniel 12:3 NLT). Louis Pasteur, the pioneer of immunology, lived at a time when thousands of people died every year from rabies. He had worked for years on a vaccine, and just as he was about to experiment on himself, a nine-year-old boy named Joseph Meister was bitten by a rabid dog. The boy's mother begged him to try the vaccine on her son. So Pasteur injected him for ten days - and he lived. Decades later, out of all the epitaphs Pasteur could have chosen, he asked for three words to be etched on his tombstone: JOSEPH MEISTER LIVED!

Your greatest legacy can be those who live eternally because you shared Christ with them. Jesus said, 'The words...I speak to you are spirit, and...life' (John 6:63 NKJV). What moves hearts? What changes lives? The words of Jesus!

Soulfood: Esther 4:9 - 5:3, Heb 4:7-16

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Complaining doesn't help



'In everything give thanks.' 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV

The Bible has one thing to say about complaining - don't do it! You say, 'If you'd my problems you'd complain too.' If that's how you feel, read on: 'Do all things without complaining' (Philippians 2:14 NKJV).

Here's why: (1) Complaining usually makes things worse. The cycle goes like this. You have a problem so you complain and stay stuck. You feel bad, so you complain even more and end up with stress, but not a solution. (2) Complaining won't get you where you need to go. Instead of committing the situation to God, you doubt his wisdom and provision. Thousands of Israelites died in the wilderness for doing that. Paul writes, 'Do not grumble, as some...did - and were killed...These things...were written down as warnings for us' (1 Corinthians 10:10-11 NIV). When you overlook your blessings and dwell on your problems, you lose your joy. (3) Complaining can lead to stress-related illness. 'A calm and undisturbed mind and heart are the life and health of the body' (Proverbs 14:30 AMP). Be honest; how many 'calm and undisturbed' complainers do you know?

Instead of complaining, start counting your blessings. Author Barbara Johnson gives us this tongue-in-cheek example. 'A hand-lettered sign nailed to a telephone pole read: "LOST...three-legged dog, blind in left eye, missing top of right ear, recently castrated...answers to the name of Lucky."' As a redeemed child of God 'luck' has nothing to do with it - you're blessed! So the word for you today is: 'In everything (not necessarily for everything, but in everything) give thanks; for this is the will of God...for you' (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV).

Soulfood: Song 1-4, Matt 21:1-17, Ps 21, Prov 16:16-19

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Break out of the box



'He will bring us safely into that land and give it to us.' Numbers 14:8 NLT

When others saw giants in the Promised Land and wanted to return to Egypt, Caleb said, 'The Lord...will bring us safely into that land and give it to us' (Numbers 14:8 NLT). At that point two things happened. 'The whole community began to talk about stoning Joshua and Caleb. Then the glorious presence of the Lord appeared to all the Israelites at the Tabernacle' (Numbers 14:10 NLT). When the people around Caleb said no, God said yes - and all you need is his approval! When you have that, you can disregard the nay-sayers and move forward. If you wait for everyone to approve, agree with you and applaud you, you'll get nowhere.

There was a time when people thought the earth was flat, and that man would never walk on the moon. In 1899 the U.S. Patent Office almost closed because the commissioner, Charles H. Duell, said, 'Everything that can be invented has been invented.' In retrospect this statement is ridiculous, but some of us have this same mindset. We stop learning because we think we're too old. We're afraid to change careers in case we jeopardise our pension. We don't pursue our dreams in case we fail or get ridiculed. We're so used to self-imposed limitations and telling ourselves, 'I can't do that,' we think we can't do anything. In essence, we've built a box, crawled inside, and now we're looking for something or someone to blame for our lack of faith.

God didn't box you in - you did - and you need to take the initiative for breaking out. Today decide to do it - and God will bless your endeavours.

Soulfood: 2 Cor 11:16 - 13:14, Matt 20:29-34, Ps 17, Prov 16:12-15

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Rock your box



'He...increases the power of the weak.' Isaiah 40:29 NIV

A little boy was crippled and the doctors said there was nothing they could do to help him. So his mother took an orange crate, put him in it, tied a rope around it, tied the rope to her waist, and pulled him around with her. After a while the boy developed a habit his mother didn't like: he began to rock his box. Sometimes he rocked it to the point that it tipped over and he fell out. No matter how many times she put him back in, he kept doing the same thing. Eventually he rocked his box until he was finally able to get out of it. Then to everyone's amazement, he learned how to walk and ended up with a great life. That little boy did something the doctors and not even his mother believed could happen. He refused to settle for life inside a box someone had put him in.

Has someone put you in a box today? If so, keep rocking your box until you're free! Other people are self-appointed 'experts' at telling us what we can and can't do. They don't always celebrate anything 'out of the box,' which is something 'out of the ordinary'. One of the great promises in the Bible is: 'He...increases the power of the weak.'

Start reading 'rock your box' Scriptures. Here's one: 'But as for me, I am filled with power, with the Spirit of the Lord' (Micah 3:8 NIV). Here's another: 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible' (Matthew 19:26 NIV). Today declare, 'Lord you promised it, I believe it, and that settles it!'

Soulfood: 2 Cor 9:1 - 11:15, Matt 20:17-28, Ps 8, Prov 16:8-11

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Know your calling 2



'He who believes in me, the works that I do he will do also.' John 14:12 NKJV

Your calling will always be connected to an unmet need or an opportunity to do good. It was in listening to the cries of an enslaved people that Moses discovered his calling. So did William Wilberforce. He devoted his life to seeing slavery eradicated in England. Nelson Mandela was a lawyer with the potential to make money. But he chose a different path - one that involved years of imprisonment. And when he was finally set free he didn't seek vengeance, he sought justice and equality for his people, and changed his country. Ezekiel writes: 'I came to the exiles...And there, where they were living, I sat among them for seven days - overwhelmed. At the end of seven days the Word of the Lord came to me' (Ezekiel 3:15-16 NIV).

If you want to discover your calling, start praying about situations that trouble you deeply. Usually we try to avoid discomfort, but if you sense that your calling involves helping the poor, spend time around those in poverty. Allow your heart to be moved; carry within you the conviction that things must change, and keep praying, 'Lord, make me a change agent.' When Jesus called his disciples, he chose people from different backgrounds: a doctor, a government worker, a group of fishermen. In essence he told them, 'I believe in you. What I know I'll teach you,' and promised them that 'he who believes in me, the works that I do he will do also' (John 14:12 NKJV).

Bottom line: Jesus empowered his followers to go out and live like he did. And today that's what he's calling you to do.

Soulfood: 2 Cor 5-8, Matt 20:1-16, Ps 144:9-15, Prov 16:4-7

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Know your calling 1



'What is that in your hand?' Exodus 4:2 NIV

When God called Moses, one of the first questions he asked him was: 'What is that in your hand' (Exodus 4:2 NIV)? Moses was holding his shepherd's staff - the one he used each day to lead and protect his sheep. But God had a different plan for it - a greater one! He used it to part the Red Sea and lead Israel into the Promised Land. When God asks you, 'What is that in your hand?' he wants you to think about your talents, experiences, relationships, education, resources, your mind and your temperament.

Dr. Martin Seligman talks about our 'signature strengths.' They fall into six categories: (1) Wisdom and knowledge. These include things like curiosity, love of learning, sound judgment and social intelligence. (2) Courage. This includes perseverance and integrity. (3) Humanity. The capacity for kindness and the ability to express mercy. (4) Justice. The ability to bring about fairness and leadership. (5) Temperance. Qualities like self-control, prudence and humility. (6) Transcendence. An appreciation for beauty, the expression of gratitude, the ability to hope, and the capacity for joy. We all have the capacity for each of these strengths, but the ones that resonate most deeply within you are your 'signature strengths.' Once you identify these you begin to understand your calling.

But be careful; the enemy wants to convince you that God can't use you because of your weaknesses, when in fact the opposite is true. Who can speak to those who are grieving better than those who've suffered loss? Chuck Colson was the chief White House lawyer until Watergate. But only when he became a convict was he equipped to begin his ministry, Prison Fellowship. So, know your calling.

Soulfood: 2 Cor 1-4, Matt 19:15-30, Ps 144:1-8, Prov 16:1-3

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