To Receive Father's Forgiveness Means That We Must Forgive

Ephesians 4:32

Luke 11:4 says, "and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us."

Now, this is a difficult thing to do. It's one of those things that sound easy but is very, very difficult. It's been said that forgiveness is kind of like drinking poison to punish someone else.

We all have people who hurt us. We all have people who have been unjust toward us and in our heart of hearts, we demand justice for them! But we don't want justice for us -and there's the rub. 

Our Father of grace has offered us unimaginable mercy in letting go of our sins. And so when we come to Father, and we come to Him in the name of Jesus, and the blood of the cross is our appeal, we're acknowledging the super high cost that God has paid to provide our forgiveness. 

It is a cost higher than anyone has cost us, and so to receive Father's forgiveness it means that we must forgive!

In Matthew 7:7, the scripture says, "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you." 

Well, I want then to use a very generous measure of forgiveness toward others, that Father might use that same measure toward me! It is impossible to follow Father, to walk in the footsteps of Jesus with bitterness, with anger, with malice and an inner demand for justice. 

And then there's Mathew 16:15 which kind of seals the deal in terms of the absolute non-negotiable, uncompromised demand of Father -that we forgive if we want to walk in His forgiveness. Jesus said very, very clearly, "But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins."

So why in the world would we want to carry the poison of hell when we are offered the grace of Heaven? 

Believing that we serve an infinite God means that we can give our deepest wounds and unjust experiences in life to God in Jesus' name and know that He can redeem. That He will redeem and that in all things, He will work for good! Dr. Drew Shofner

Praying as a Family

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“They all joined together constantly in prayer.” Acts 1:14

People often have an idealized idea of what praying as a family should look like. In a perfect world, praying with children would be easy. We would sit around the table with our well behaved children (who would have perfectly clean faces and perfectly ironed clothes), we would all hold hands and bow our heads, and even the youngest would remain quiet during this time of intersession with God.

But is this obviously not a perfect world, and I don’t know about your family, but my kids are loud. They usually have the remnants of their most recent meal on their clothes and they rarely sit still for anything other than Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. My house is one monkey short of being a circus. So it can be a struggle to find, or more importantly, make time to teach our young ones to talk to Jesus. But find that time we must

When I was in college I went on a mission trip to East Africa. Our group spent months preparing for this trip. We would get together as a group to learn about the people we would meet and learn about their culture. We practiced how to speak to a group using an interpreter and we had amazing prayer meetings. One of my favorite things we would do during the prayer meetings is, we would pray with our eyes open, we would pray as if God were a tangible person sitting in the room with us. It felt strange at first, certainly not how I prayed when I was growing up, but it taught me that prayer can happen at anytime in any place. My understanding of prayer grew. It showed me another way that prayer can be an extremely intimate and powerful act of group worship.

I have taken this approach and applied it to my own “group”. My family.

My children have a tendency to be intimidated by the thought of talking to The Lord. They think there are certain words to say, a specific way to pray. While I want them to have an attitude of reverence and awe, I also want them to understand that they are God’s children and he delights in them. Even when they thank him for every single one of their favorite toys and it takes 5 minutes to list them all. I want them to simply get used to talking to God, whether that be around the table thanking him for our food or telling him about their Barbies and dinosaurs.

5 Ways to Pray as a Family

 

1. Set aside intentional time to pray together.

Set aside a regular time to pray with your kids or spouse. For my family, this is usually while we are driving to school in the morning or before bed at night. Praying for their safety at school, praying for the teachers and their friends is a great way to kick off the day. At night, we pray once everyone is in bed. The kids will (hopefully) be starting to settle down and it just seems like a natural time for children to open up and talk about whats on their hearts.

2. Pray spontaneously.

If you see a car accident, say a prayer out loud for those involved. If your kids are testing your patience, stop and let them hear you telling God how much you love them even when your tired and frustrated. If you can’t find the car keys, say a quick prayer together about it.

3. Let them see you pray on your own.

Get on your knees in front of your couch, let them see what it looks like to be in communication with the Lord throughout the day. You set the tone and the example for your children in your home.

4. Make a prayer chart or jar.

Make a chart and keep it in a visible place in the house or make a prayer jar. Get a jar or mug and fill it with strips of paper with people and things to pray about. Keep it on the kitchen table, during dinner take turns praying about whatever topic is picked. 

5. Give thanks for answered prayer.

Make a point to give thanks and celebrate answered prayer. Its important for children to understand that God answers prayers.

 

Prayer is one of the most powerful ways we can communicate with the Lord, and helping our children understand that and participating as a family is an amazing blessing.

Prayer Is The Way The Lost Get Found

Jeremiah 37

Father loves the lost, and prayer is the way the lost get found. 

When we pray, God does something in us and something through us! 
When we pray, we enter into the presence of God and if you go there often enough and you pray with all of your heart, and if you do not give up, you will be changed through prayer! 

Cold can't come into the presence of hot and not become warm. You cannot bring your life, with all of its pain, into the presence of healing without being healed! You cannot bring hopelessness into the presence of immeasurable hope without hope alighting in your life!

Physical battles are fought in physical ways that require knowledge and insight. 

Spiritual battles are fought in ways that require even more knowledge and insight and the truth is that in the battle of the ages between heaven and hell, between lost and saved, we know the enemy's battle plan! 

We know how Satan keeps people lost. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says,  "The God of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God."

They don't understand the message about the glory of Christ who is the exact likeness of God and so in a world where God has come, people say "where is God?" In a world in which love has demonstrated itself in the most sacrificial, selfless way imaginable we say "where is love?"

Why? Because Satan has blinded them. 

So now we know the enemy's battle plan but if we will start regularly and faithfully specifically praying for lost people - they will be saved! I believe we will see a supernatural wave of faith rising in the salvation of hundreds of men and women and boys and girls because no one is unreachable -no one!  

You know, it's not a coincidence that God chose Saul (the Apostle Paul) to be the twelfth replacement disciple! It's not a coincidence that God chose the hardest head. The furthest out, most radical opponent of Christianity in the day and said, "I'm going to show you the power of the Gospel. I'm going to take the person that you would say would never bear my name and he's going to bear my name most beautifully and brilliantly over all!" (Paraphrased)   That wasn't for no reason that God did that. And so I just want to say to you that no one is unreachable! 

Jeremiah 32:27 says, "I am the Lord, the God of all mankind, is anything too hard for me?" And the answer is no! 

When we pray God works in us and changes us and then when we pray, God changes external reality as well. Prayer is the way the lost get found and when we become a house of prayer and we pray for lost people, we will begin to see many men and women and boys and girls come to know Jesus in ways that we have not seen before and it will be the power of God's Spirit doing this -because we prayed! -Dr. Drew Shofner 

It’s Always Something, Isn't It?

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The day starts with the best of intentions. You tell yourself in the most convincing manner possible that today is the day. You will absolutely find the time. You will have the most amazing prayer time ever.

Then its off to the races.

Your feet hit the floor running.

There’s no looking back.

The day ends.

You have no idea why you failed.

Maybe you did put on the breaks, briefly.

You sat quietly.

Took several deep breathes.

30 seconds later you were either snoozing or task list checking.

What happened?

One word…distractions.

They are Satan’s answer to keeping us from God!

“How can I keep from being distracted?” is not a new question but many of the distractions today are new.

There are really only two types of distractions. When we figure out what works to control them, prayer can and will become a beautiful part of our relationship with God. First we will look at environmental distractions and then internal thoughts distractions.

It’s not headline news that we all have a lot of activities in our lives. Family, work, home, friends, church, volunteering, Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the list goes on and on. Although we do have commitments in many of these areas, the key is putting the commitment to God at the top of that list. Three specific steps will work to minimize the distractions around us for a productive prayer time:

Turn OFF all the screens:

This means actually turning them off and tuning them out. Yours and anyone near you. There is nothing that you can possibly be missing during your prayer time that’s more important then God.

Schedule a specific time and location:

Knowing when and where prayer time will be spent makes it a priority. Something come up? Just like any other important appointment reschedule.

Be intentional everyday:

Top priority tasks get done. Enough said!

These steps are half the challenge. Internal distractions are the next obstacle.

According to an article in Phycology Today about distractions in our mind, “It's not negotiable: there's no way not to be distracted by distractions.”

That’s encouraging!

The good news is it was reported in The Telegraph that a 2016 study concluded, “Intelligent people may find it difficult to focus the mind because of all the amazing ideas constantly running through their genius brains.”

That explains everything, right?

Bottom line is that everyone battles distractions. There are things we can do to control our thoughts and bring our focus to God. Each of us is unique. We each need to try various methods to find what works for us. Trying one or more of these suggested approaches may get you to that amazing prayer time.

Have a plan:

Consider using the ACTS approach - Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. You can read more on this approach  at billygraham.org/answer/how-does-one-pray-ive-never-been-taught-how-to-say-a-personal-prayer-or-really-talk-to-god/

Force focus:

Either write out your prayer or say your prayer out loud. These approaches force your mind to stay on task.

Prepare your mind: 

Try listening to or singing a favorite worship song, reading a prayer from book of Psalm, or reciting a prayer such as The Serenity Prayer.

Group prayer:

Consider soliciting others to pray with you. Share requests and take turns praying out loud.

 

These are just a few ideas. Try these and others. Most importantly don’t give up until you have found your prayer sweet spot.

Be committed, be intentional, and prayer will be amazing.

Why Should I Make Prayer a Priority?

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In Jeremiah 29, the prophet Jeremiah tells us that God has said to his people, “You will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you.(Jeremiah 29:12-14a) 

This is one of many examples of God imploring us to seek relationship with him. Prayer is so important because it allows us to call upon the attentive ear of God, knowing that he will always be there to listen to our thoughts, concerns, and rejoice in our success!

If we think about prayer as being a tool for fostering healthy relationship with God, then it is natural that we would then want to pray everyday. This is similar to how we grow relationships with friends or a spouse through regular honest communication.

Prayer is powerful! When troubles arise, we are quick to offer our prayers to those in need, but we can do so much more when we are intentional about prayer. It is no small thing that we can call upon the name of God at any time. When we have a strong relationship with God supported through constant communication, it bears fruit when we go to him with incessant bold prayers.

What does making prayer a priority in my life look like?

Pray First!

We set aside time each day where we will pray for specific things, upcoming events, thanks for past blessings, forgiveness for past shortcomings, loved ones. We pray for guidance. We pray for peace. We pray that his will be done in all things and that our hearts could accept it. We must be bold in our prayers! For some people, this time will be in the morning, others in the afternoon, whenever we are most likely to follow through (maybe set a reminder the first few times).

We should also remember that we are beginners, and therefore should not set hard-line expectations that we are unlikely to meet (i.e. I must pray ___ long; If I forget I am a fool). In the same way that communications with our spouse will ebb and flow depending on the situation, time spent during this designated period should be determined by the content of our prayers and not the time we are trying to fit our prayers into.

Pray Throughout!

Paul tells the Thessalonians, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18) This passage makes it clear that we should touch base with God through each day. One way of doing this is by means of quick rapid-fire prayers. Praying continuously keeps in our minds what we have already prayed for and keeps us focused on carrying out his will. Also, as we begin to look for them, we will find many things to be thankful for each day.

The point is, prayer is an important part of our relationship with God. If he is important to us, then prayer should be also.

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