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

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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

In All Circumstances

Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
– I Thessalonians 5:18

No matter what happens to you, God’s desire is for you to search for the truth, for everything and anything that deserves thanks. When we belong to Christ, we live a different kind of life. We live a redeemed life that can see beyond the horizon and into a future of hope and promise. This shapes our perspective. It enables us to see much more than immediate threats and lonely burdens. When we belong to Christ we know that we are never alone and that the here and now lasts but a moment.

“Life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion. Hope without thankfulness is lacking in fine perception. Faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude. Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road.”
― John Henry Jowett

It’s easy to say thanks for all the obvious blessings. Now, spend a season of time finding a way to give thanks for the trials, deserts and mean people that have come into your life. Don’t do what comes natural. Do what comes because you are living a supernatural life!

“…love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you.” – Matthew 5:44

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” – Galatians 2:20

The message of Paul to the Thessalonians isn’t to look for the good things in your life and say thanks. That’s easy. Even pagans can pull that off. Paul is teaching that there is a blessing to be found in every page of your story. Search for the work of God throughout your life. The lesson here is to begin and never stop the practice of speaking thanksgiving every single day.

“The unthankful heart discovers no mercies; but the thankful heart will find, in every hour, some heavenly blessings.” ― Henry Ward Beecher

Magic Moments

“To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.”
― G.K. Chesterton

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My wife is hollering at me (still) because I won’t answer her question (still). She’s holding the SUV door open and trying to get some information from me. I’m listening to a song on the radio. It’s a familiar song with some powerful lyrics that poetically capture my state of being. I’m having a magic moment. I am vaguely aware that there’s this woman yelling at me, trying to get my attention, asking a very simple question over and over and I’m just trying to ignore her hoping I can stay in the magic until the song ends.

“It’s just a song on the radio!” my wife tells me as she marches off to get me something from Starbucks. She’s right. These days I grasp for those magic moments just like I used to reach for that inner tube racing past me while I rode the rapids down the Guadalupe. There may not be another one coming for a while.

“My soul is in the sky” – William Shakespeare (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

There is nothing but the mundane all around us every minute. And then something breaks through and there’s a magic moment waiting. That student across the desk last night who needed to hear from someone a word of hope. He has tasted so much failure. His whole life is ahead of him. He thinks what really matters right now is his final exam. But there’s so much more he needs to believe. I engineer a magic moment and there are tears in his eyes as he hears some truth he hadn’t expected.

“There are no words to express the abyss between isolation and having one ally. It may be conceded to the mathematician that four is twice two. But two is not twice one; two is two thousand times one.” ― G.K. Chesterton

The phone in my pocket rings and I answer it. That in itself is a magic moment. I don’t like to talk on the phone. It’s usually turned off because I don’t want it ringing in class or meetings. I fight an endless battle with my students who are hopelessly addicted to their phones.

I had just finished signing a stack of legal documents. My mind had been drifting and dreaming about the here and now and days to come. As I walked out the door, my phone call came.

It was a magic moment. A friend from far away in the desert called. He just wanted five or ten minutes. That’s all I had. We talked for about thirty. We caught up a little, laughed and shared some information. It was over before it started. I sat out in the parking lot for most of it. It was one of those timing experiences, when everything seems to fall into place and you look back and wonder, “how did everything I didn’t even know I needed happen just like that?” Magically, a book he had sent and inscribed was in the mailbox the very next day.

“To live a spiritual life we must first find the courage to enter into the desert of our loneliness and to change it by gentle and persistent efforts into a garden of solitude.” – Henri Nouwen

The Apostle John wrote, “If a person owns the kinds of things we need to make it in the world but refuses to share with those in need, is it even possible that God’s love lives in him?” (I John 3:17, The Voice). In my world one of the most valuable things that people give up is time. These days, one of the things I need “to make it in the world” is a magic moment on the phone out in the parking lot.

“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.”  ― W.B. Yeats

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened…”  – Ephesians 1:18

Background Music

MAY YOUR WONDERS NEVER CEASE

Father in Heaven
Lord may your name be glorified
above all others, above all this world
above everything else in our lives
for nothing else in all of this world matters
but to live our lives for you and you alone
May your wonders never cease
may your spirit never leave
may we ever long to see your face
and when we turn from you again
oh how quickly we forget
may we be reminded of your grace
May Your Wonders Never Cease

  • Third Day

IT IS WELL WITH MY SOUL

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

  • Horatio Spafford

I DON’T WANT TO GET ADJUSTED

In this world we have our trials
sometimes lonesome, sometimes blue
but the hope of life eternal
Makes all old hopes brand new

And I don’t want to get adjusted to this world, to this world
I’ve got a home so much better
and I’m gonna go there sooner or later
And I don’t want to get adjusted to this world, to this world

Lord, I’m growing old and weary
and there’s no place that feels like home
Saviour come, my soul to ferry
to where I never more will roam

And I don’t want to get adjusted to this world, to this world
I’ve got a home so much better
and I’m gonna go there sooner or later
And I don’t want to get adjusted to this world, to this world

And I don’t want to get adjusted to this world, to this world

  • Iris Dement

 

The Searcher

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Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. – Colossians 1:15

Humans have always been searching for God. Jump on Amazon, there are hundreds of books written about the topic. The search continues.

The very young, who I encounter in college every day, seem so certain they’ve found all they need in their brief search. I always have one student who’s just brimming with confidence and answers. It’s inspiring.

I’m still searching for answers as I navigate through the shipwreck of this world. Long ago, when I was young and filled with answers, I assumed that one day the search would end.  Someday I’d get to a point where I had it all figured out. Still waiting. God remains a mystery. As He should be.

While I’m searching for the right path to take and looking for more answers to the multiplying problems I keep tripping over, the only certainty that comforts my spirit is what I discover about the words and actions of Christ. More and more, He becomes for me the answer to my restless soul as I search for God each day.

Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. – John 13:5

Putting my vanity out the door and bending my knees to serve someone else (who doesn’t even expect it) – that’s where I know I can find God.

“But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!  In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:44-45

Treating people who seem to be out to get me as if they were the dearest of friends is the most difficult of journeys to make, and yet that’s where God is waiting.

“But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail.” – Luke 22:32

While enduring his own most agonizing trial of faith, Jesus invests his heart and mind in the life of his friend. As big as they might seem, I can’t let my own problems distract me from caring about the lives of others. This is where God is calling all of us and where He can always be found.

 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:34

Putting down that grudge and taking up my cross is another certain way in which I will find God today. He is always there in the midst of forgiveness. Waiting at the gate to welcome home the wandering child. Pouring out a wealth of forgiveness to ones who owed a debt of sin. “But all the wickedness in the world which man may do or think is no more to the mercy of God than a live coal dropped in the sea.” – William Langland

As I search, I can look to the words and deeds of Christ and always find what I’m longing for.

He is Alive and Still Praying

Who then will condemn us? No one—for 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

jesus-gethsemane

 

 

 

 

 

 

I may have stirred everyone up today. I told people in my Sunday School department that Jesus wasn’t living in their hearts. That’s not a nice thing to say on Easter Sunday.

Lot’s of fidgeting around in their plastic chairs. I was racing to get it all in before members of the choir had to leave early and everyone else needed to exit in time to get a seat for the packed Easter worship service that follows. I wish I had slowed down and let people process what they were hearing. That always works best. It may be a lot to think about if you’ve grown up singing “Since Jesus came into my heart…”

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” – Luke 22:31-32

I had never noticed this before. As we were studying the life of Christ these past few years, I saw for the first time Jesus talking with Peter about His prayers and what He hoped the results would be. As I thought about this I wanted to remind my class that Jesus wasn’t living in their hearts (like our hymns might wrongly teach us) but he was still fully human, fully God and still fulfilling His mission in Heaven.

God has sent the Holy Spirit to reside in our hearts.

“If you love me, obey my commandments. 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 14:15-18

Remembering that Jesus isn’t in my heart but instead is in heaven helps me to realize what He is doing for me there. He has ascended as victor over death and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He is preparing a place for me. He is going to return one day as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Now he is interceding for me as He did for Peter, pleading in prayer, that my faith would not fail.

Notice that he told Peter not that he was going to pray that all of his problems would go away nor that he would be able to avoid his trials with a happy attitude. He prayed for Peter’s faith, that it would not fail. Not that Peter would necessarily feel better about himself, but that he would have the maturity and wisdom to lift up his fellow apostles. Jesus was praying for Peter and his faith so that he could use that faith for the sake of others and in so doing launch the church. Instead of sinking into self-destructive despair because of his denial, Peter becomes one of the key leaders in the birth of Christianity.

Jesus was already praying for Peter as he prepared Himself for the cross.

Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf. – Hebrews 7:25

He is alive, He has risen from the dead.

Jesus is now in Heaven and He is praying for me – He is praying for you.