A Greater Work

I tell you the truth: whoever believes in Me will be able to do what I have done, but they will do even greater things, because I will return to be with the Father.  – John 14:12 (The Voice)

I read a wonderful devotional in My Utmost for His Highest this week. What did Jesus mean when He told His disciples that they would do greater works than those they had eyewitnessed?  Does this mean His followers will be doing greater signs and wonders than raising the dead or calming the storming sea?

What if this promise is about prayer? My devotional reading taught that prayer does not prepare us for a greater work, it is the greater work.

He lives His resurrected life forever. From such a vantage, He is able to save those who approach God through Him for all time because He will forever live to be their advocate in the presence of God.  – Hebrews 7:24-25 (The Voice)

Jesus has returned to His Father and is now interceding for all of us as we approach God’s throne of grace. When we pray, we now have complete access to our Heavenly Father. This is a new condition that occurred only after Christ ascended. There are no more sacrifices to make in order to gain access to the holy presence of God. That has been done once and for all by Christ.

Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.  – Romans 8:34

But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.  – 1 John 2:1

Our prayers are empowered because they have the Son of God personally taking them before God on our behalf. Our prayers have the potential for even more earth shaking consequences. The work of prayer is a greater work because we have Jesus Christ joining forces with us.

But that’s not all. When Jesus left the earth He promised His followers that he would not leave them alone.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. – John 14:16-17

But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.  – John 14:26

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will.  – Romans 8:26-27

When we pray, we do not pray alone. We pray in a spiritual partnership with the very Spirit of God. In every place of weakness, ignorance, frailty and fear, the Spirit of God intervenes and fills in all of the gaps. He makes our prayers perfect. He empowers our prayer life by guaranteeing its effectiveness. With this kind of promise, why aren’t you praying all of the time? Why are you worrying? Why are your friends and family burdened with so many cares?

So own up to your sins to one another and pray for one another. – James 5:16 (The Voice)

Did you ever consider that failing to pray for others might be a terrible sin? Who wouldn’t fall on their knees knowing that what we can accomplish in prayer would be even more powerful than the great miracles performed by Jesus himself?

“Prayer does not fit us for the greater work; prayer is the greater work.” ― Oswald Chambers

Advertisements

Why Are You Praying Like That?

  1. The first question we must ask ourselves, WHY are we praying?
  2. Next, why are we praying the way we do?
  3. When we pray, what shapes our expectations?
  4. Is your prayer life a religious custom or the most powerful activity on earth…one in which you have been invited to participate?

What is it that shapes your prayers?

Your prayer life is a direct reflection of your dependent relationship with God. How dependent are you? What kind of an independent existence have you carved out for yourself?

“Every time we pray our horizon is altered, our attitude to things is altered, not sometimes but every time, and the amazing thing is that we don’t pray more.”    – Oswald Chambers

How does prayer work?

By prayer, I mean intentionally conveying a message to God. It’s frustrating—isn’t it?—how unclear language can be if we are not careful. Why do I say “intentionally conveying a message to God? Why don’t I just say that prayer is talking to God? Well, because Romans 8:26 says, “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.” I take this to mean that there are groans of our hearts that the Spirit inspires that are sometimes wordless. So prayer is usually talking to God, but there are times when you can’t talk and can still pray, that is, convey a message to God. – John Piper

More ways to pray…

Piper gives even more counsel about how we should pray. Take a look at some of the Biblically based directions about how to pray:

Pray for the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! (Luke 11:13; cf. Ephesians 3:19)

Pray for the healing of wounded comrades.

Let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. (James 5:14-15)

Pray to know God better.

[We have not ceased to pray for you to be] increasing in the knowledge of God. (Colossians 1:10; cf. Ephesians 1:17)

Pray for power to comprehend the love of Christ.

I bow my knees before the Father . . . [that you] may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. (Ephesians 3:14, 18-19)

Pray for a deeper sense of assured hope.

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers . . . that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints. (Ephesians 1:16, 18)

Pray for signs and wonders.

And now, Lord, . . . grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness . . . while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus. (Acts 4:29-30)

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit. (James 5:17-18)

Pray deeper sense of his power within them.

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers . . . that you may know . . . what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe. (Ephesians 1:16, 18-19)

Pray for greater faith.

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24; cf. Ephesians 3:17)

Prayer means waiting

I tell the Lord my troubles and difficulties, and wait for Him to give me the answers to them”, said one man of God.  “And it is wonderful how a matter that looked very dark will in prayer become clear as crystal by the help of God’s Spirit.  I think Christians fail so often to get answers to their prayers because they do not wait long enough on God.  They just drop down and say a few words, and then jump up and forget it and expect God to answer them.  Such praying always reminds me of the small boy ringing his neighbor’s doorbell, and then running away as fast as he can go.  – E.M. Bounds

Remind Us

But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. – John 14:26

A tap on the shoulder

A familiar look from across the room

Another “a-ha” moment at just the right time

That last ounce of courage when the darkest moment comes

Thinking before you say something that won’t taste very good later

Isn’t this a wonderful promise and description about the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives? He teaches us as we grow up and face every new circumstance. He then reminds us of each important lesson we’ve already learned. So many of those lessons we weren’t even paying attention to at the time. We didn’t know how important it would be later on, how dearly we would need that truth to grasp with all our might when things fell to pieces.

We rationalize and make excuses for basic selfishness. The Holy Spirit is deep within to remind us about sacrifice, devotion, eternity and most of all love. He reminds us about what it means to carry a cross. His voice is there in our ear as when we turn our cheek to another insult. That voice beckons us to our knees to pray first and without ceasing. He draws our eyes heavenward to seek that realm and that will rather than the petty and tarnished castles and kingdoms we so crave here on earth.

The Holy Spirit reminds us that are redeemed to live a new life.

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.  – Colossians 3:1-3

The Spirit that Jesus has left with each one of us reminds us of who we really are and what we are really here to do. It produces within us a peace that passes our everyday understanding. It makes our cares subside and our thoughts fall into order. We cannot find this gift and its benefits anywhere else, though we search our whole lives. It is here, dwelling within our soul, speaking words of wisdom, comfort and guidance each and every moment. Are you listening? Are you watching? Do you remember?

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. – John 14:27

Walking to Emmaus Part 7

road-to-emmaus

 

 

 

 

 

They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.”  – Luke 24:32-34

Can you imagine the questions they asked themselves as they raced back to Jerusalem? The distance was probably 7 miles. Do you think they got competitive about who recognized him first?

Never forget how this wonderful story ends:

  • They shared the same physical experience of feeling the truth in their hearts, hearing it and being in his presence.
  • They were overcome with the need to do something about this experience, to share it with everyone else. It was late in the evening, yet they jumped up and hurried back to their friends (hours away).
  • Once gathered with their friends the experience they had just had was confirmed by others who had also seen the risen Lord.

When I think about the Road to Emmaus story it reminds me to always think about which direction I’m heading today. There are choices to make. Too frequently I’m heading back home to what’s familiar and comfortable, my tail between my legs. I fall into ruts and routines and am not as intentional with people like I want to be.

Today, I want to be with those two disciples whose hearts were filled with happiness and hope, eager to get back to the scene of all the action. I want to live a life that reports the truth and not dwell on fear and failure.

Our life is different than it was for those two disciples heading home that day. As believers we have the Spirit residing within us. We have not been left alone.

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.  – John 14: 16-18

So why do we still have such trouble recognizing the presence of God when he resides so close to us (within us)? How much nearer does he need to get? Maybe the noise of world is too much with us. It’s not looking for God…Are you?

Be certain today that you’re running back to the action not back home to safety. Listen for that voice in your spirit who’s there to guide your steps into the will of God. What looks like defeat may indeed be the greatest triumph.

Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.  – I John 2:6

Walking to Emmaus Part 5

road-to-emmaus

 

 

 

 

 

Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.  – Luke 24:25-27

Has anything really changed? Is it still just as difficult to walk in faith today?  Has our generation really grown up that much more than those two standing in that dirt road listening to a stranger explain it all?

That discouraged couple represents us all. Maybe that’s why Jesus came back and made sure he caught them before they got home. He’s acting like the father of that prodigal son or the shepherd searching for that one lost lamb. He’s caught them as they move in the wrong direction and he challenges their lack of faith. They seem to know the truth, but because they’re in retreat, they don’t believe the truth.

Jesus takes them to an “A-Ha!” moment of belief. It sounds like they knew their Scriptures. He helped them to connect the dots. He showed them where the story was leading. Later in this account they tell each other that their hearts were on fire as he taught them. Their faith was ignited as all the pieces of knowledge and their own experiences came together.

Right now the Holy Spirit resides in all believers to do this same thing. But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you” (John 14:26).

At this point in the story, I’m left with some big questions

  1. Why couldn’t these two remember all those lessons they had learned while growing up? Sometimes I wonder if what I’m learning is getting filed away as just “interesting information” and not real truth that I should be living out loud. Are your beliefs all tucked away, safe for a rainy day, folded up neatly in that Bible, never once to see the light of day (or heat of battle)?
  2. What did these two eyewitnesses do with the Jesus they had just seen and heard – maybe even watched die on the cross? It’s usually safer to just walk away and not say or do anything. I mind my own business too often or worse I mind other people’s business way too much. It’s safer to play by the rules. It’s risky to love, to turn the other cheek, to give up, to sacrifice, to become invisible and die. Are you living a life that’s in retreat?

 

“Why would we need to experience the Comforter if our lives are already comfortable?” 
– Francis Chan