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30 November 2011

The Essentials of Effective Prayer - 30 November

We have learned that worship is the first and last part of Jesus’ model prayer, and we know that we are to enter His gates with thanksgiving. How will that tie in with showing our allegiance to Him?

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Phil 3:20 (ESV)

For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Phil 3:20 (KJV)

I find those two translations fascinating. Conversation, as in prayer? Citizenship, as in allegiance?

We hold citizenship in America (or in another country) where we were born or chose to place our earthly allegiance. Our allegiance to our country comes with responsibility: taxes, voting and so on. But our ultimate allegiance is in heaven. And what responsibility do we have as citizens of heaven?

Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 27  Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? 28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: 29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? 32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. 33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. 34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. Matt 6:26-34 (KJV)

If I seek God’s kingdom, what will be added unto me?

In a typical day, how much time do we spend in seeking God’s kingdom? How much more time do we spend worrying about food and clothing? This passage shows me that most of the time, I get it wrong. I worry about stuff – about money, bills, food, clothes, presents (all of which are important, of course) – and I forget that God knows me and knows my needs.

But I don’t have a job. I lost my house. My bills are behind. Does that mean that God doesn’t care about me? Did I not pray long or hard enough? That question is very difficult. Sometimes it does seem like God is ignoring me, or avoiding me. And frankly, I don’t know why. It’s annoying to not get what I feel I need from God….oh….wait….what I feel I need….sigh.

God didn’t promise to provide us with a job or a house. He said He knows we need this stuff. He also says if we seek His kingdom, it will be added unto us. But He doesn’t promise us “health and wealth”. He says that He knows what we need. How can we swear allegiance to Someone who doesn’t SEEM TO provide us all the things we [think we] want or need? Simple. Look at our Biblical examples. Daniel – thrown into a den of lions. David – chased by his own son, who wanted to kill him. Paul – who spent years and years in prison. They didn’t have what they wanted, but they had what God wanted them to have.

But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 1 Tim 6:6-7 (KJV)

Is our food just physical? Or is there something more to this heavenly kingdom?

“It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”  Matt 4:4 (ESV), citing: And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Deut 8:3 (ESV)

Oops. “Humbled”? I don’t wanna be humbled! I want to have it all. I want to keep up with the Joneses. 

It was the same for Israel. Wandering in the desert, even after being miraculously taken out of slavery, didn’t seem quite so wonderful now. No permanent homes. No food on the table. They wanted to go back, and feel the relative comforts of slavery rather than press on to see the land flowing with milk and honey promised by God. And of course Israel was humbled for their lack of trust and their grumbling.

As a heavenly citizen, I should concern myself more with Godly food: the Bible. I should show my allegiance to God by thanksgiving and prayer. I can’t know God’s will without studying His Word. I can’t get answers unless I ask questions and talk to God.

What does this all mean to you? How has learning that your citizenship is in heaven, that God promises that He knows what you need, and that your bread is not merely physical changed your attitude toward prayer and the Word? Will you spend more time in either, or both, this week? Let me know!

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