PRAYING LIKE JESUS

In researching some more Bible verses from my post last week about Jesus praying specifically for Simon, I found it interesting to reflect on some other people that Jesus prayed for.
Jesus first prays for Himself  (John 17:1-5)
He prays for His original disciples (John 17:6-19)
Jesus prays for ALL believers!  (John 17:2-26)
I would encourage you to go read all of John 17 and reflect on the beauty of the chapter.
I’ll just share a few verses from each section here with you:
 

Jesus praying for Himself:

 
And now, Father, glorify me in our presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.  –John 17:5  (NIV)
 

Jesus praying for His original disciples:

 
I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.  –John 17:9  (NIV)
 

Jesus praying for ALL believers:

 
My prayer is not for them (His disciples) alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, (all future believers…us!) that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.  –John 17:20-21  (NIV)
 
How cool is it to think that Jesus has personally prayed for YOU?  Jesus’ prayer was that YOU might be one with God just as Jesus is one with the Father.
 
I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be ONE as WE are ONE: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.  –John 17:22-23
Jesus' prayer
 
Wow…Didn’t Jesus leave us a great model of prayer for our lives?

–To pray for ourselves

 

–To pray for our friends and family

 

–To pray for the unity of the church worldwide to be one with God? 

Still such an effective prayer, even 2000 years later!
 
May the specialness of knowing Jesus has prayed for you to be ONE with God and Jesus bring you peace, comfort, and joy!
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.  –Colossians 4:2-4  (NIV)

JESUS’ PRAYER

In a recent Bible study I was doing, the Lord opened my eyes to see something that I had not noticed before.  It is a simple thing but it made me stop and reflect on the specialness of it.
Luke 22:31-32 says, “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you, as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”  –(NIV)
 
I think it is worth pondering a little deeper what each sentence in those verses is saying.
 
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you, as wheat.”
 
Isn’t it interesting to note that Satan wants to get his hand in everyone’s life to try to confuse us and make us lose our focus? Just as Satan tried to win control over Jesus’ life by tempting Him in the desert, he also tries to rule in our lives.
 
“But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.”
 
That is the sentence that really resonated with me while reading these verses this time.
Jesus actually prayed for Simon personally, that Simon’s faith NOT fail him.
Wow…Jesus prayed for Simon and his faith to be bigger than Satan in Simon’s life.
Simon
In looking at it in more “human” terms, one could argue that God did NOT answer Jesus’ prayer because Simon ended up denying Jesus three times before the cock crowed just as Jesus had predicted.
BUT, we need to look at what else Jesus said.
 
“But what about you? He asked. Who do you say I am?”
 
Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
 
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in Heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”  Matthew 16:15-18  (NIV)
 
…built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.  –Ephesians 2:20  (NIV)
 

With Jesus as the chief cornerstone, Peter is included in the line of apostles and prophets despite him originally denying Christ; in his heart, he truly believed and knew that Jesus was the Lord.

So, ultimately God answered Jesus’ prayer for Simon’s faith.  It just wasn’t as immediate or timely as we might have expected.
I believe that Jesus knew that Simon would deny Him, yet He still prayed for Simon especially because of the next verse.
“And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

Jesus knew that when Peter’s faith returned, it would ultimately strengthen others.
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Photo credit by John 9:25 under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
 
The original Luke passages point out some important lessons about prayer that can apply to our lives.
 
–How many times does God maybe not answer our prayer in the way we think He should?
 
–How many times does God maybe not answer our prayer in the time frame we had in mind?
 
–Everything happens in God’s time under His control, serving His purposes.
 
And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father.  –John 14:13  (NIV)

ENCOUNTERING GOD

What are some different ways that you encounter God’s presence on a daily basis?
Is it sometimes in the beauty of nature?
Is it sometimes in the people you interact with daily….like your family, coworkers, people from church?
Is it sometimes in the people you don’t know personally….like a cashier at the supermarket, waitress at the restaurant?

Is it in inspiring music or books?

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So often, I encounter God’s presence in some form of nature while soaking up the beauty of this world that God has created.  One of the most powerful ways I encounter God is in beholding the glorious sunsets or sunrises. Seeing the many changes in the sun illuminating the sky bring me such peace and awe.
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Sunrise at Virginia Beach, VA
It could be the big, puffy clouds making cool formations against the bright blue sky or the beauty of a hike leading to some waterfalls and amazing rock formations.  Gazing at the mountains are a way to encounter God as well in the fall, walking down a trail where the leaves are all different shades of yellow, red or orange.
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Chenango Valley State Park
When I was a child I remember the place I always encountered God’s presence was when I was at the ocean.  Looking out at the vastness of the ocean waters, listening to the rhythm of the waves crashing back and forth, and seeing miles and miles of the seashore would just be so soothing to my soul.  I remember praying to God seeking a oneness with Him at the ocean. It was always heart breaking when it was time to leave and return home.
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Marco Island, FL
A few weeks ago I was very blessed to encounter God in nature and do something I’ve never done before.  The encounter with God unfolded this way:
A friend and I were spending one night at Virginia Beach while it was off season (thanks to Third Day for having a concert near there!) It was the first time either of us experienced the beauty of Virginia Beach.
Our hotel was right on the beach. Directly to the right of our hotel on the beach was a horse corral where you could ride a horse right along the beach. Now, I have never ridden a horse before, and was definitely scared to attempt it, but I thought since I sky dived before and survived to tell about it, then certainly I could ride a horse!  Thankfully, my friend volunteered to go too because she knew I would want to!
It was also interesting to learn that this corral had actually just moved recently to this location!  It was just too “coincidental” to find that out….kind of like God working it all out for us!  And, they were only providing this entertainment for another few weeks.
Thankfully, the people gave us the two oldest horses….mine was 28 years old and I noticed his gray hair mixed in with his mane. I thought we were a perfect match!  Thankfully, we didn’t really have to do much and we had a lead horse go with us….just in case!
I encountered God in nature on the return trip ride on my horse.  My horse was going so slow on the way back that the others were a ways up ahead, but it was really the part where I encountered God in nature the most.
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Horseback riding at Virginia Beach
There my horse and I were just trodding along, next to the ocean water. Though a little cool, the sun was high in the sky, beating down with its rays piercing my arm. Listening to the waves of the ocean beat back and forth were soothing, and seeing the seagulls fly around, some with their snack in tow, just made me encounter God.
I always have felt God’s presence whenever I’m at the ocean.  My mind was thinking about what it must have been like in Jesus’ day, where they spent most of their time fishing for their food. I envisioned Jesus in a boat, calling His disciples to leave everything right there and follow Him.
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Sunset at Marco Island, FL
It was a wonderful encounter with God reflecting on the beauty of nature and the power of Him in our lives. I was so thankful for the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and trust that I could ride a horse on the beach! I ended up encountering God!
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In what ways do you encounter God in your family, friends, coworkers, church friends?
For me, one way I encounter God in the people I know is when they ask me how they can pray for me. Truly praying for others and their needs is a blessing.
I remember encountering God in others when I had surgery or after having my children. People would bring food to our family since it was difficult to do those things at first.
Does a coworker ever offer to help you do a task that you don’t quite have time to finish?
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What about people that you observe in your daily life that maybe you don’t know personally who lead you to encounter God?
Recently a sister-in-law of mine posted a few examples of how she encountered God while running some errands….
…That cashier at Walmart that took time to mourn with a family who was on their way to their young nephew’s funeral.
…Some Target employees who noticed and helped a woman who was not coherent inside her running car.
…How about that car ahead of you who come to find out paid for your cup of coffee?
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Is there certain music you listen to or books that you read that lead you to encounter God?
 thirddday 3
 Some members of Third Day whose music helps me encounter God
I know the last few years in my life that Christian music definitely leads me to encounter God. It is just so peaceful listening to certain songs especially while driving around or getting some exercise.  For me, it can be great times of worship and singing to the Lord.
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It is always a blessing in my life to encounter God….even in the simple, little things! He is a great God and truly dwells in each of us and in all of nature. Seek Him and you will find Him!
Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  –Psalm 139:7-10  (NIV)
My editor friend shared this song with me that relates exactly to these thoughts and this exact Bible verse!  Check it out.

PEACE

One of the greatest gifts that Jesus left us is the
Gift of Peace….
…..a peace that can bring us joy and comfort despite our circumstances in this life.
This peace is a special gift and blessing made available to us as we continually seek Him in our lives.
To possess His peace is awesome and makes all the difference in our lives.
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Did you ever notice that once Jesus, in His resurrected state and before He ascended into Heaven at Pentecost, visited the disciples, He addressed them with the greeting, “Peace”?
–On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  –John 20:19  (NIV)
–Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.”  –John 20:21 (NIV)
–A week later His disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  –John 20:26  (NIV)
My thought is that in these verses Jesus is preparing His disciples to experience true peace that only comes from Him, not from this world, when He sends the Holy Spirit to them after He ascends into Heaven.
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 Photo credit by Glenn Franco Simmons under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

–All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  –John 14:25-27  (NIV)
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The peace we possess should not be based on our circumstances nor on what others think of us.
Yes, we all have troubles in this world, but God’s peace is triumphant over it all.
So, the next time you have a day or week where everything seems to go wrong…
…the kids are all sick
…you get a flat tire at the most inopportune time
…you oversleep and are late for work
…you find out you have some disease….
I hope you dig down deep within and cling to that true peace that only God can provide. The peace that surpasses all understanding. It is His peace that sustains us even during the troubled, hard times as long as we cling to Him. We need to stay close to Him and trust in His ways.
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Do you ever feel God’s peace in this beautiful world that He created for us……..
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 Photo credit by Jim Mullhaupt under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

…in the beautiful sunset or rainbow that just took your breath away?
…in the sun rising slowly over the peaceful waters of the ocean?
These things remind me of the peace God offers that we can behold with our eyes.
Try each day to tap into that wonderful power of His peace!
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Sunrise at Virginia Beach, VA
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  –Philippians 4:7  (NIV)

LIFT UP

Have you ever been in the middle of a storm in your life when you were just so devastated, that even though you possessed great faith, it was a struggle to even pray?

It seemed like the burden you were carrying was overpowering you?

Maybe you even felt distant from God even though you really knew in your heart that He is always with you?

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At times like this, we need to reach out to the Christians God has placed in our path whom we trust enough to have them lift us up to the Lord in prayer.

Their faith can help carry our burden to the Lord. I think that is such an honor and privilege that we have.

That thought struck me recently while watching the movie “Miracles from  Heaven.”  For those of you who have seen the movie, maybe you would agree that it was something that could have been further developed in the script. I think it would have been a great addition for the movie to show the importance of praying for others.

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Has the Lord ever impressed upon your heart to lift someone up to Him in prayer that you knew was really struggling? Maybe the person did not even ask you specifically to pray for them.

This has happened to me a few times recently. Somehow, I knew without a doubt, I was suppose to pray for them and that things would turn out well for the people. It was a great experience to see how the Lord worked favorably through interceding for the people.

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Sometimes I think we should ask more people to pray for someone who needs prayer. We know that Jesus said “Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”  –Matt 18:19-20 (NIV) When we unite in prayer with other Christians, there is even more power. I found this truth in my life recently while praying for a dear friend who was sick.

In the middle of writing these thoughts, it was interesting to have a friend reach out to me and ask me to pray for her as she really felt led to pray with a Jewish friend of hers who is very ill. My friend really wanted to share Jesus with the person. It was an honor to join in prayer that the Lord give my friend the words she needed to share Jesus with her friend. We continue to pray that the person asked Jesus into her heart; she wasn’t really able to respond to know for sure.
The story of the paralyzed man in Luke 5:18-25 shows how the faith of his friends helped in his healing.  The paralytic’s friend’s brought him to Jesus, and “When Jesus saw THEIR faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”  –Luke 5:20 (NIV)  This story came up in conversation with a dear friend last weekend and fit in perfectly with these thoughts I was in the middle of writing. (Thanks, Nigel!)
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Photo credit by John 9:25 under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) 

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I recently heard that the thought that we are meant for relationships. Just as God in three persons is in relationship with God.. Jesus.. Holy Spirit, so we are all needed to be in relationship with others. What better way to be in relationship than to be lifting others up to the Lord in prayer?

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When someone asks you to pray for them, no matter how small the need, remember what a privilege it is.

I think it’s also important to let the person know when the prayer has been answered if the person did specifically ask you to pray… Even if it wasn’t answered in the way you expected. It is faith building to see the Lord work through the gift of lifting up others to the Lord.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.  –Galatians 6:2  (NIV)
This cover “Pray with Me” that a friend of mine wrote seems like the perfect ending to these thoughts. Take a listen and be blessed!

EASTER JOY

Since the Easter season is really celebrated for fifty days until the time when the Holy Spirit was sent, let us reflect on the meaning of Easter Joy in our lives.
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Photo credit by Vicki DeLoach under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Easter is a joyful time
   When we see God’s love at the fullest.
          LIFE IS BEGINNING ANEW. 
If we look around, we see God’s love unfolding in nature—
   the trees begin to blossom
      and the chirping of the birds can be heard.
            LIFE IS BEGINNING ANEW.
Easter is when God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ,
    to die for YOU and ME
       and then to RISE on the Third Day.
            LIFE IS BEGINNING ANEW.
We are God’s creation,
    Jesus’ love must be reflected in each of us.
        The Lord loved you so much that He died for YOU!
            LIFE IS BEGINNING ANEW.
Let us share that Easter JOY of the Resurrection
     With every person we encounter
          And enrich their lives by our presence
              Because of what Jesus did for YOU!
                   LIFE IS BEGINNING ANEW.
 
He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then He said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  –Revelation 21:5  (NIV)
 
So that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and together with you be refreshed. The God of peace be with you all. Amen.  –Romans 15:32-33  (NIV)

COME, FOLLOW ME

Can you imagine being one of Jesus’ first disciples and hearing Him say “Come, follow Me?”

Having Jesus, in the flesh, call you PERSONALLY to follow Him?
Can you imagine how special it must have been for those disciples whom Jesus looked deep into their eyes, piercing their soul too, and said, “Come, follow Me?”
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Photo credit by Sherman M. Leavitt under Creative Commons License (CC BY-NC-ND  2.0)
When Jesus called some of His first disciples, Jesus was like a  “stranger” calling them from afar, as they didn’t really know Jesus personally.
For other disciples, some had heard about Jesus from a friend or relative so they were somewhat familiar with Jesus.
And, for some disciples, Jesus knew them personally when He called them.

Isn’t that just like us?

There are some of us that don’t know about Jesus but slowly we realize something is missing and we feel a beckoning from a stranger named Jesus.
 Some of us hear about Jesus from a friend or relative and we hear Jesus calling us to heed His call in our life.
And, some of us know about Jesus and then realize we need a personal relationship with Him.

Can you imagine leaving mother, brother, your job and even home to follow Jesus?  But, that is what He called those early disciples to do!

Many of them left what they were doing immediately to follow Jesus!  They trusted that Jesus was in charge of their lives and would provide for them no matter what.
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Even though Jesus is in heaven with God, His Father, and not here in the flesh with us, Jesus still calls each of us and says, “Come, follow Me!”
 
In what ways has Jesus called you to “Come, follow Me” recently or even a long time ago?
Is your personal call from Jesus to “Come, follow Me” the most important thing in your life?
Do you follow Jesus’ lead to “Come, follow Me” daily….Following where He leads you?
Have you had to leave some of your family, your job or home to follow Jesus’ call to “Come, follow Me?”
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Maybe you haven’t heard the Lord’s call that drastically in your life, but I think reflecting on Jesus’ calling His very first disciples shows us how to follow Jesus’ call in our lives too….

–To make Him number one in our lives

–To not put anything or anyone above Him in our lives

–To follow His call daily in our lives

–To make us dependent on Him alone to provide for us.

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed Him.  –Matthew 4:19-20 (NIV)
“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”  –John 10:27  (NIV)