Romans 8:26 says, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
We don’t like to be weak. Admitting weakness means admitting we are powerless. It means that we have to accept that we can’t fix our problems on our own. As humans we sometimes don’t like to admit that we need help. It’s in our nature to try and take care of our own problems.
The problem is that if we want to have a relationship with God, we have to admit that we are weak. We must come to terms with the fact that we are helpless without God. Sin has separated us from God. We are weak, but the Spirit helps us with this weakness. Paul uses the word astheneai, meaning a “lack of confidence or feeling of inadequacy.” The Spirit restores our confidence through prayer. The Spirit takes the inadequate, and makes it adequate.
Our weakness is taken away by the Spirit, and the only hurdle left is our own humanity. We need to understand that we can have confidence in prayer. We should also accept the fact that we need God’s help. How wonderful that our God can hear us even with our weakness!
One of the many valuable lessons that I was taught at Bear Valley Bible Institute came from Corey Sawyers. He was our instructor for the book of Psalms. He was known to say “there’s a psalm for that” just about every day. But there really is a Psalm for just about every situation we encounter and emotion we feel. But a psalm’s true beauty is recognized when you say it in a prayer to God.
Many of David’s psalms were prayers to the God of Heaven, so why don’t we do the same? Corey showed us a way to feel the depth and emotion that these psalms contain, and I encourage every Christian to try this method the next time you read Psalms.
Take each sentence and put it in your own words. Then pray it to God. It’s pretty straight forward, but here are 3 examples:
God how perfect and holy is your name in all of the earth. You have shown your glory and power through your creation. Everyone can see your strength, Your power over every person. We can look around and see your works. We see creation and recognize that it was you that made it. Knowing all of this we are amazed that you would be mindful of us, but not only are you mindful, but you care for us. So much that you would send your son. Making him lower than the angels. All for us. Your son has power over everything and we understand that you put all things under his control. God how perfect and holy is your name in all of the earth.
Heavenly Father we come to you asking if you have hidden your face from your children? Do you forget us? We know it isn’t possible for us to comfort ourselves. At times we feel discouraged and think that Satan has won, that our enemies have taken control. And so because of this we ask you to answer our plea. Help us to focus on you in times of trial. Help our enemies to see that you have won. Through everything help us to trust in you, help us to recognize your love for us. Help us to find joy in our salvation. We praise you and thank you for blessing us beyond what we deserve.
God we come before you thanking you for taking care of us. For giving us all our needs. You bless us with more than we could give to ourselves. You comfort and restore us. You give us the path to righteousness. Even when we go through trials we know you are still with us. You never desert us. No matter what happens you comfort us. You take care of us and bless us to the point that we overflow. Because of you we have goodness and mercy given to us our entire life. And we can stay in your presence forever. Thank you God for everything.
Something as simple as praying a psalm in your own words can add depth, meaning, and emotion to your prayer life. I encourage us all to imitate David when we approach the throne of God.
The third section of Psalm 119 is highlighted by the third Hebrew letter, “gimel.” It has been said that this section contains the basic idea that the Law of the Lord makes a righteous person happy. If we let God define happiness, this makes sense. Even when a stranger (19), when full of reproach and contempt (22), when princes sit and talk against him (23), the righteous can see wonderful things (18) and experience delight (24). Notice what this righteous Bible student does as he drinks in the Word.
He Makes Tangible Requests
He asks God to “deal bountifully” with him (17), to “open his eyes” (18), and to “take away reproach and contempt” from him (22). Studying God’s Word is meant to be practical and life-changing. What an attitude to see Bible study as a partnership between ourselves and it’s powerful, transforming nature. We should expect blessing, enlightenment, and transformation when we plant the Word deep on our hearts.
He Makes Personal Application
Notice how many times in these eight verses the writer says “me,” “my,” and “I.” The request for blessing is “that I may live” (17). “Open my eyes, that I may behold” (18). “I am a stranger” (19). “Do not hide your commandments from me” (19). “My soul is crushed” (20). He asks that reproach and contempt be taken “from me” (22). “I observe” (22). Princes “talk against me” (23). His testimonies “are my delight” and “my counselors” (24). Bible study is a first-person endeavor first, before we make it a second-person (you) or third-person (them) task.
He Makes An Important Connection
The writer sees God’s power in the written word. His tribute is to the God who had these things written down and revealed to him. When we can make the connection that God is speaking to us when we read the Bible, it changes what we do with what we read. He refers to “Your word” (17), “Your law” (18), “Your commandments” (19,21), “Your ordinances” (20), “Your testimonies” (22,24), and “Your statutes” (23). No wonder some even so-called scholars try to undercut the inspiration of Scripture. If I can reduce the words of Scripture to the work of men, even “later scribes” who changed and added to some original, lost message or if I can express doubt over the validity or legitimacy of a passage or Bible book, then it becomes more of a take it or leave it message. Contrast that attitude with passages like 1 Peter 1:23 (“the living and enduring word of God”), Jeremiah 23:29 (God’s word is a fire and a hammer), 1 Thessalonians 2:13 (the word of God which performs its work in you who believe), Ephesians 6:17 (the sword of the Spirit), and John 12:48 (the word that will judge us in the last day). The Bible is from God to us, and we must always make that connection!
It has been a good year for tomatoes in our garden. We’ve eaten them, given them away, and preserved a lot of them. In addition to canning them, Kathy decided to use our dehydrator to save time and space in preserving them. A few days ago, she filled the machine with several rows of sliced tomatoes. She would set the temperature and time, then come back when it was done. The fruit would still be wet and tacky. After this happened a few times, she was concerned that our appliance was malfunctioning. It was then that she noticed she had not pressed the tiny start button on the far right side. She pushed it, and after eight hours she came back to perfectly dehydrated tomatoes. All the prep and planning were futile without the power.
How often do we conduct our lives that way? We meticulously make plans and we do our part to try to make them happen, but we neglect to access the power that makes it all work? Do we ever forget what Paul reminded Philippi, that “it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (2:13)? Paul also said that while we may have a variety of gifts, ministries, and effects, it is “the same God who works all things in all persons” (1 Cor. 12:4-6). We’re told that it is God who will “equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight…” (Heb. 13:21).
How do we hope to do God’s work without God’s help? We need His guidance, His wisdom and instruction, and His help. That necessitates skillfully laboring in His Word (2 Tim. 2:15), leaning on Him in fervent, faithful prayer (Phil. 4:6; 1 Th. 5:17), and relying on His providence in setting our direction (Rom. 8:28). It makes all the difference when we tap into God’s power. Let’s not overlook the one thing that is always essential in everything we undertake!
The wandering Albatross is the biggest flying creature on earth today.
It’s lifespan can be over 60 years.
They can go years without ever touching the ground.
Did you know?
Many people today haven’t decided that God is the answer to the void we have in our lives. For this reason, James will give us the following instructions to help us in our prayer lives.
“But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” James 1.6
God wants His children to trust Him, and He is ready to reward the evidence of our trust in Him.
We show God our faith in Him in two major ways based on this verse and its original context.
God’s where we go when we need wisdom (verse 5).
We’ve decided and are convinced that God is the answer by praying to Him without doubting His ability to aid us.
Unlike the albatross that wanders for years without touching the ground, we’re not commanded to drift through the air without landing. We’re expected seek out the truth, land, and stay there.
Maybe you’ve wandered off and you’re starting to see the signs. Signs like constant panic, unrest, anxiety, and feeling a loss of control. These can all point to a spiritual problem that you’re no longer grounded.
God is always the answer and we can prove to Him that we believe this truth by letting Him take the lead.
For the next several weeks, I’ll be repeating the book of I Peter in present-day terminology. It’s not a true translation of the book, as I am not qualified to do so. It will be based on an exegetical study of the book and will lean heavily on the SBL and UBS Greek New Testaments, as well as comparisons with other translations (ESV, NASB, NIV, ERV, NLT). My goal is to reflect the text accurately, and to highlight the intent of the author using concepts and vocabulary in common use today.
This is not an essentially literal translation, and should be read as something of a commentary.
I Peter – Part VII
While we’re on this topic, wives must listen to their own husbands. If your husband doesn’t believe, maybe you’ll win him over with just your good example! You wouldn’t even have to say anything. Pure and respectful behavior speaks volumes. Don’t obsess over your physical appearance or fashion. Show off who you are inside! A gentle, easy-going demeanor is timeless; it’s also extremely valuable to God. Remember the women lived a long time ago? They were considered special because God was their hope, just like he’s your hope. They also expressed their beauty by deferring to their husbands. Sarah did that for Abraham – she considered him to be her leader. You are just like her when you do the right thing without being afraid of anything.
Husbands, you’re not off the hook. You share a living space with your wife, so you have to be a student of her needs and wants. Don’t treat her like one of the guys. Remember the differences between men and women. Don’t be rough with her. Make sure you show her how valuable she is! She has just as much a claim to God’s promise as you do. If you aren’t good to her, God will block your prayers.
Finally, you all need to work together. Show sympathy to each other. Be kind to each other. Don’t think too highly of yourselves. Don’t insult people who insult you. Don’t get even with people who hurt you. Do something good for them instead! That’s actually why God called us, and he wants to do good for us, too. You’ve read, “Anyone who wants to live a good life should watch their mouth. They should avoid evil and do good things. They should look for peace and chase it. God watches out for good people and listens to their prayers, but he’s against people who practice evil.”
Who’s going to hurt you if you’re obsessed with being good to people? Even if someone hurts you because of your faith, you’re ok! Don’t be afraid of their threats, don’t let it shake you up. Put Jesus in the center of your heart at all times. Have a logical answer ready whenever you’re interrogated for your faith. Tell them about your hope, but make sure you’re gentle and respectful. Make sure your moral lives are good so they can’t legitimately attack your character. If you’re doing the right thing, they’ll answer for how they treat you. It’s better to be attacked for doing the right thing than for doing the wrong thing.
How many of you have ever sat at a red light in traffic only to realize when that light turns green there’s still no place to go… and then before you get through the intersection the light turns red again. Frustration at its finest.
Who has ever been seated to eat somewhere and it takes over 15 minutes for a waiter or waitress just to come take your drink order? I can feel my blood pressure rising just thinking about it!
I can’t be the only one who has ever lost my cool with my kids or other family members. Sometimes what seems to be for no apparent reason at all? Hopefully you’ve taken the time to at least realize you reacted poorly and made your apologies.
I’d like to share with you my struggle with being a patient man. How I always need to consciously work on it, what works for me, what doesn’t work for me, and maybe open your eyes to the reality of what true Christian patience looks like.
My wife, Rebecca, always tells me, “Don’t ever ask God for patience, or else He’ll give you something to be patient about.” I can see that. To a certain point, I believe it too. But let’s take a second look at it in James 1:2-8.
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” So let’s look at this. I have faith. My faith can be tested.
This doesn’t mean I’ve lost faith, just that I’m being tested for how strong my faith is.
“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” – Here I see my struggle with patience as the wisdom aspect. Maybe I’m not feeling wise. Maybe I’m having trouble figuring out this patience thing you all speak of. Is it wrong of me to at least let God know, hey I’m struggling with this… No! Absolutely not. Philippians 4:6 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Let me be clear, I’m not disagreeing with my wife. I would never do that honey… I’m simply saying that asking God for patience and asking God for grace and understanding while I figure out what I need to change in my life to be more patient, are two completely different things. Verse 6 says,
“But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”
So we have some ground rules here. James tells us, “you must ask in faith. You cannot doubt God. For if you have any doubt, any doubt at all you can expect to receive nothing.”
Maybe my best course of action does not stem from asking God for help. What I have done and learned to do lately is called connecting the dots. If I am unhappy, frustrated and struggling to find joy at home, I ask myself why? Where did that come from? There doesn’t seem to be anything that my family is doing wrong. Sure, dishes pile up in the sink,kids room is not picked up, laundry room is overflowing… Those things happen, they’ve happened before and it didn’t bother me that much in the past. Maybe all those little things just seem like big things now because something else is bothering me, but what? What’s changed? Connecting the dots for me almost always leads back to work. A bad run I’ve been on, problems with co-workers, added duties and responsibilities to an already stressful job. I have had to learn to be more aware of my stressors. I’ve had to do a hard reset on what I bring home vs what I leave at work. Most of all I’ve had to remember to lean on Jesus.
“Come to me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my Yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
Learn to lean on Jesus. Learn to do it early. Learn to do it often. I urge you to join a private Bible study. Find an elder, find a deacon, or find a friend and ask them to study the Bible with you. Studying the word of God is the biggest stress reliever I have ever found. I am so grateful for those that have taken the time to study with me.
If you are not a Christian, you have a choice. Don’t wait. Learning to be a disciple takes time. But making the decision to desire discipleship takes no time at all. Be baptized into Christ Jesus and rest easy knowing your soul is in safe hands.
If you are a Christian, perhaps you’ve let your anxiety, stress or impatience get in the way of being a solid Christian, a rock star husband or wife, a nurturing mother or father, or a fierce friend. We are here to help you, guide you or pray for you. Do not be weary, whatever you may need.
Samuel is nearing the end of his life by the time you read 1 Samuel 12. He gives a speech to all of Israel and there are several chilling statements that force us to consider our own spiritual standing. Samuel seeks the counsel of the Lord and asks Him on behalf of the people for an earthly king. God had established the Judges to rule them rather than a king which was typical for the time period. God grants their request, even though this kind of leadership was bound for failure. He handed Israel their shovel, and they began to dig. Here are some of Samuel’s final words.
“Then Samuel called on the Lord, and that same day the Lord sent thunder and rain. So all the people stood in awe of the Lord and of Samuel. The people all said to Samuel, “Pray to the Lord your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king.”“Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied. “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless.For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own. As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right.But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will perish” (18-25).
Here are five quick observations and practical truths based on Samuel’s speech.
We should never let our previous sins hold us back from pressing forward. Samuel tells the children of Israel not to let the evil in their recent past keep them down— but he doesn’t pretend as if they hadn’t sinned against God.
Samuel reminds the people that God is quick to forgive.
It’s interesting that Samuel says that his failure to pray for God’s people would be a sinful thing for him to do.
Samuel tells the people to fear the Lord AND remember what He’s done for them. God could have wiped them out. He clearly had the ability as he demonstrated His power over nature in the beginning of this section.
It was true for the children of Israel and it’s true for us today. If we persist in doing evil, we will perish.
The Old Testament is filled with relevant applications for us today. Let’s learn from the past, and like Samuel said— let’s not let our past failures keep us from moving forward.
Twenty seconds seems like a short time, yet it is sufficient to kill viruses and microbes from your hands with thorough handwashing. Thus, when the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic began, we were inundated with public service announcements that asked us to wash our hands to stop the spread. Again, it seems like a small step to achieve a beneficial result, but it is effective.
Twenty seconds is also the time required to receive health benefits from a hug. For example, a study conducted in 2003 found that twenty seconds spent in a warm embrace increased oxytocin levels and decreased cortisol levels. 1, 2 Oxytocin is also known as the “love drug,” “love hormone,” and “cuddle hormone.” 3 Believe it or not, the primary function of oxytocin is to facilitate childbirth by causing uterine contractions. However, within adults, especially for a couple, it increases feelings of attachment.
As a cautionary note, we might cite this to instruct our youth to limit their physical contact with their dates before marriage since the creation of oxytocin can blur the lines between true, agape love and eros love. As oxytocin is considered a “feel-good hormone,” parents should guide their offspring to create it instead through singing with a group and exercise.4 Otherwise, like with any drug, one might seek it out just for the pleasant feelings it brings without considering the complications.
But what of our spiritual lives? What can twenty seconds do to help that? I did an experiment using the Lord’s model prayer to find out. First, using the NaturalReader Dotcom website, I copied and pasted the text from Matthew 6.9-13 from different Bible translations. Next, I selected a variety of A.I. voices offered by the website, both American and British. Then, I used a stopwatch to see how long it took for the computer-generated voice to read the text. You might be surprised to learn that the model prayer only took 21 to 28 seconds to read. However, when I removed the final sentence that some academics say is missing from the various manuscripts consulted to create modern English translations, the reading time was between 18 and 20 seconds.
Paul tells us that we are to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5.17). Unfortunately, our prayer lives may suffer because we think we must dedicate a lot of time to pray and thus cannot find time for it within our busy schedules. Yet Jesus shows us that we can say a prayer encompassing most of our needs with about twenty seconds! What often “pads out” our prayers are the needed expressions of thanksgiving and the petitions we lift on behalf of others. But when confronted by temptation or needing to check our temper, twenty seconds of prayer might make the crucial difference.
Consider this a friendly public service announcement for Christians. It only takes twenty seconds to clean your heart and deepen your love for God.
The English Romantic poet, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, is famed for her Sonnet 43. It is also known by its first line: “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” She was reared with privilege, wealth, and the finest education, but her health was compromised by an equestrian accident. Her father was controlling, and when she eloped to marry Robert Browning she was disinherited. She published many works of various types throughout her life, and this allowed her to become independently wealthy though her health made her an invalid. Robert became enamored with her writing, and they corresponded for two years. During this time, she wrote fervently romantic poems showing her love for Robert. For all that she wrote in her relatively brief life, her poetry stands out most of all. Of her poems, Sonnet 43 may be most famous.
The title above Psalm 92 reads, “a song for the Sabbath day.” That connects its words to worship, and this psalm shows the writer’s deep adoration for God. He never uses the word “love,” but his affection for God is obvious. It seems that the writer gives several proofs of that love here. Notice how.
HE GIVES THANKS TO THE LORD (1)
HE SINGS PRAISES TO HIS NAME (1,3-4)
HE DECLARES HIS LOVINGKINDNESS AND FAITHFULNESS (2)
HE PRAISES GOD’S WORKS AND THOUGHTS (5,8)
HE SCORNS THE WICKED WHO OPPOSE GOD’S WAY (6-7,9,11)
HE APPRECIATES THE BLESSINGS OF A GOD-APPROVED LIFE (10,12-14)
HE EXPRESSES CONFIDENCE IN THE CHARACTER OF GOD (15)
One of the most rewarding exercises you can engage in is to enumerate the ways you love and appreciate God. Do it in your prayer life; spend time praising God and be specific in expressing your adoration and admiration. Think deeply about it. Look around. Look into your life. Consider what looks like His providence in your life and the life of others. Count your blessings, and tell God what you are thankful for. Wait! Did you mention running water, hot water, reliable vehicles, paved roads, coffee, air-conditioning, music, puppies, baby’s breath, eyesight, and brisket? What about the church, salvation, prayer, the Bible, peace, the hope of heaven, His guidance and protection, the elders, deacons, Bible teachers, your spouse, your parents, and your children?
This will build your love and appreciation for God. It will remind you of how much He loves you and cause you to love Him more. It will humble you and help you focus on the fount of your every blessing! It should make you a better, more obedient servant for Him. How do you love Him? Like this psalmist, count the ways! It will lift your spirit and open your eyes to a harvest ripe with those who need what you have. Get counting!