I Fell to My Knees … and Cried, Father!

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“… Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1

As I struggled to find peace about a topic for July’s Devotional Study Sheet, this title came to mind with its focus on prayer. July is the month that we celebrate this country’s freedom. So, why choose prayer? Because for us to maintain our freedom in this country, it is going to require MUCH prayer.

Prayer is a dying commodity in this day and age. I am not talking about the lack of prayer in the general populace. No, my friend, I am talking about prayer in the life of true genuine believers — ones just like you and me.

In today’s society, it is so easy to be swept up in all of the drama of the moment. It is a time in which we find ourselves so paralyzed by the overwhelming flood of social media, that we drastically fail at living. This is a ploy of the devil, and a very effective one at that.

Our faith is on trial here. Your faith and my faith are on trial. How strong do you find yours? I find mine very weak.

So, what are we to do? We must strengthen our faith. How are we to do this? First, by arming ourselves with God’s Word. We must find ourselves in His Word DAILY. Strength and comfort are found there.

The second most important part of this equation is PRAYER. I recently started reading E. M. Bounds’ book entitled “E. M. Bounds on Prayer.” I am not sure when or where I purchased it, but I found it in my mini library and have dug right in.

This book from the outside is quite a daunting force. Why? Because it contains 622 pages!! Yes, that is not a typo! It is a very THICK book.

As soon as I opened to the first page though, my attention was caught never to be let go again! This book is incredible! It amazes me how a man who lived his life from 1835-1913 can have such applicable examples of prayer for us today.

Furthermore, Mr. Bounds could not have chosen a more clinching title for the first chapter than “The Force That Shapes the World.” What is that force? It is PRAYER!

If you find yourself, like me, in a depressed, overwhelmed, and fearful place with all that is going on around us, this book will most assuredly calm your heart and give you hope for not only the day but for the future too!

I have not given the daily devotions sub-topics this month on purpose. Not every passage will speak specifically about prayer, but they will have a principle that is valuable for our prayer life. You will also notice that many of the days have multiple verses. This is to give us a more full picture of the principles to be learned that day.

I do not know if I will be able to finish the entire book during the month of July, but I know what I gain from it will be most treasured in my walk with God. If you are interested in getting your hands on a copy of “E. M. Bounds on Prayer,” you can purchase it at a very reasonable price on Amazon (and free shipping, if you have Amazon Prime). Note: if you do purchase it through this link, I will receive a small commission through Amazon’s Affiliate program at no extra charge to you.

There is power in prayer!

May this month be one in which we find our faith strengthened through prayer!

Day 29: H is for Help

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:1-2

H is for help. Help means to give assistance or support to; to benefit a cause; to further an advancement. Pastor has been preaching a LOT of messages these days … like every message! … that has been driven straight to the core of my heart. How has he been lurking around my heart? Umm … I believe that it is called the Holy Spirit! I am so thankful for a pastor who faithfully studies and prays daily for us … and most importantly, preaches what the Holy Spirit lays on his heart! I do not take this for granted.

When we go through deep waters, do we not seek to find someone to connect with? Someone who has been there, done that, and has a t-shirt to prove it?  Well, when my soul is heavy, it is easy to find myself searching the Psalms. David’s human flesh was so apparent and he was always so transparent in his feelings … and very plainly and boldly spoke about them. Hey, I am human and my human flesh can resonate with David’s feelings and bemoanings. Do you find yourself seeking out the Psalms as well?

Psalm 42:5 is the perfect example of this … “Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted in me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.” The words that David speaks are like the same exact words that are coming out of my mouth … or at the least are bouncing around inside of my head. But, interestingly enough, David did not stop there. No. He repeated this again in verse 11 … and then AGAIN in chapter 43 verse 5.

Wow! David must have really been down to repeat himself three times in such a short space of time. But, then I stopped to think about the significance of this. THREE times. Why three? Did you know that the number three in scripture depicts divine wholeness, completeness, and even perfectness? Can you see how God was teaching David an important lesson?

I was not going to type out this entire chapter, but I changed my mind. I know that I need to hear it again … to focus and to meditate on it some more. I trust that you will find time today to let it sink into your spirit as well, my friend.

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved; he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul. The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore. Psalm 121

Lesson Objective: To understand what help means and that our help truly comes from God alone.

Did you pass or did you fail?

Day 28: W is for Wilderness

They wandered in the wilderness in a solitary way; they found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them. Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them out of their distresses.” Psalm 107:4-6

W is for wilderness. Wilderness means an area that is virtually uncultivated and uninhabited; an empty or pathless area. When I think of a wilderness, I think of a desert. But, that is not necessarily the case. How do I know? The dictionary, of course! Hehe

So, if a wilderness does not equal (is not synonymous with) a desert, then what is the difference? Yes, a desert can be a virtually uncultivated and uninhabited area … and it can be empty or pathless. But, desert actually means an excessively dry place. It also can be a very desolate (joyless) place.

Are you confused yet? Well, do not be too worried because even my analytical mind is all twisted up! But, for the sake of this devotion, let us picture in our mind a true wilderness … with all of its gigantic pine trees, with its rugged terrain, and with its majestic mountains.

Have you ever watched those “wilderness” survival shows? If you have, have you ever seen them in a desert (dry, barren place)? Nope? I have not either. They have always been in a wilderness-y type place, right? In the middle of a forest far away from habitation. Did you notice that there is always sustenance there … if you look in the right places?

God allows us to go into the wilderness … into the fires so to speak … not to destroy us, but to purify us. Alaska, my home town and home state, is going through a tremendous fire right now. It is seemingly destroying everything in its path for thousands and thousands of acres. When those fires are finally gone, what is left? Black, black, and more black. Am I right? To the human eye, that is what is seen. But, remember that the human eye is finite.

In our spiritual lives, we will also be led into the wilderness and be tempted and tested like never before. The fires will rage hot, hotter, and the hottest that we could ever imagine. When those fires finally pass … and they will pass … black will be left behind. But, do not despair, my friend. God makes beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3). God is testing you to see what you are made of. He is purifying your life.

If you keep watching, you will see new life sprout up in the midst of all the charred remains. With that new life comes an even greater beauty … one that could not have transpired without the fires before it.

Even though time spent in the wilderness seems like a solitary time, it is not. God is there with you and it will not last forever. The wilderness is a place to place through … not to set up residence. Say, “Hallelujah!” right there!

Lesson Objective: To understand what wilderness means and the difference between it and the desert. To learn that even though we are greatly tested by fires in the wilderness, God is still there. He will not only get us through, but He will bring forth great beauty! 

Did you pass or did you fail?

Day 27: V is for Validate

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” I John 4:1

V is for validate. To validate means to confirm or make legally valid. In our country’s legal system, all evidence must be validated or proven as truth. How much more important for our lives as Christians to be validated … proven as truth.

My mother-in-law enjoys watching game shows on TV … the old game shows. I do not remember what the name of the one show is, but the key phrase/concept is, “Will the real ____ stand up?” Have you ever seen this before, or am I dating myself because I remember this from my younger years? At the beginning of the show, they share a significant event or trade that a person is in. They then show you a panel of three people who pretend to be that one person. They also have a panel of three other people who try to guess which of those three people is the real person that was described. They do this through asking questions and watching mannerisms or tics to see if they can catch one of them in a lie … with something that does not add up … by the way, I have learned that if something does not add that there is a reason that it does not add up. It is interesting to watch. People can be very convincing in their answers and actions … only to be found that they were false.

Do you and I live our lives this way each day? Do we do and say things that will have others around us draw the improper conclusions? Do they see us in the false light or do they see the true … or the “real” … person that we are?

You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.
— Abraham Lincoln

No matter how many times or how many people we fooled into thinking that we are someone or something that we are not, guess what? God ALWAYS knows the true (“real”) you! God will never be fooled!

Just as in the court of law, when the truth comes out, there will be consequences to pay. The Bible so clearly tells us in Galatians 6:7-8 to “Be not deceived [do not be fooled]; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”

What are our motives or motivation for what we do? To determine this, our spirits must be tried (put to the test) … whether we live after man and the flesh or after God.

Lesson Objective: To understand what validate means. To learn that even though we can seemingly fool … pull the wool over … other’s eyes, God is never fooled. God sees the real you every single time, my friend!

Did you pass or did you fail?

Day 26: Z is for Zeal

But it is good to be zealously affected always in a good thing, and not only when I am present with you.” Galatians 4:18

Z is for zeal. Zeal means eagerness, ardent or fervent interest or pursuit of something. I like to see zeal as it’s synonym passion, which refers to a deep stirring within.

There is something inside each one of us that produces a zeal or passion to rise up out of our comfy beds every morning. It is a driving force that comes from deep within and pushes us forward into another day. It may be a job, it may be a   person, it may be a hobby, or it may even be the almighty dollar.

I do not know what your zeal or your passion is, but be assured that if I were to follow you around for one day … or maybe even less than a day … I could pretty accurately pinpoint what your passion is. In fact, it may take as little as 15 minutes of scrolling through your social media presence. What do you think? If you are still in doubt, I challenge you to go to your social media accounts and scroll through. What do you think the world and others see there … not what YOU see, but what THEY see?

I have not always been the Christian that I need to be. I am by far not perfect and truly, the more that I study and try to get closer to God, the more unworthy and immature I see myself. The more that I learn from God and His Word, the more that I see that I need to learn. God is giving me a passion for Him and I so desire the same for you, my friend!

I know that Noah doubted God at first, but can you imagine how he felt while he was building the ark? There was just the handful of them, and when he looked around, what did he see? He saw everyone else doing their own thing like it was simply just another ordinary day. Yes, some took note of what was going up, but what did they do? They ridiculed Noah.

My heart is grieved for those who claim to be my brothers and sisters in Christ and yet, they show no signs of zeal or passion or love for our Lord. They put anything and everything in front of God, His Word, His church and His people. They live a life that is completely and totally self-centered and self-motivated. What is wrong with this picture? Yes, there is something wrong here, my friend!

In Galatians 4:9 it says, “But now, after that ye have known God, or rather are known of God, how turn ye again to the weak and beggarly elements, whereunto ye desire again to be in bondage?” If you are truly saved, it is a sin to not follow after God. Why would you want to put yourself back in bondage when Christ has so richly and freely given you the liberty to love and to serve Him? Why, my friend? Why?

Lesson Objective: To understand what zeal is. To acknowledge our sin of lack of zeal for God and the things of God. 

Did you pass or did you fail?

Day 25: Y is for Yard

Ah LORD God! behold … there is nothing too hard for thee.” Jeremiah 32:17

Y is for yard. A yard is a unit of measure equaling 3 feet. I believe that we all already knew that. Since we know that, then we also should know that an inch is also a unit of measure and that 36 inches equal one yard.

Life is full of hard things, do you agree? Personally, I do not like hard tasks. I would much rather do a whole handful of simple tasks than to do one hard task. Did you know that you can make hard tasks more simple? What?! Yes, you can!

Have you ever found yourself staring a hard task in the face trying to work up enough gumption to tackle it? I have and I am positive that if I would ask for a show of hands, all of you would have at least one hand raised. The most effective way is to go to God with your problem or your task that seems insurmountable. He can do things that we never can!

The past couple of weeks have found a lot of children headed back to school. Many a child has been filled with dread knowing that they will have so many tasks put before them in the coming months and too many will be harder than they will want to tackle. But, thank the Lord for teachers because teachers know their students and they do not put more on them at one time than they can handle. God is our Teacher and He knows how much we can handle as well.

What is our next step in making our hard tasks more simple? By breaking them down into smaller tasks. I love to make lists … especially to-do lists. But, it can be very disheartening to find myself at the end of the day or the end of the week and I have hardly anything crossed off of my list. Ugh! Out of desperation, I have learned the trick of breaking down the big tasks into little tasks and wow, my pen gets to go crazy marking off task after task!

If you were to ask any successful Christian how they achieve so much, I honestly believe, that they would all whole-heartedly agree that it all begins with God and then making small tasks. It does not matter if they are dieting/exercising, or getting out of debt, or learning a new trade, or cleaning house, or learning to love others, or learning to tithe, or drawing closer to God, or forgiving others … “Little by little, inch by inch; by the yard it’s hard, by the inch, what a cinch!”1

There is so much truth in this song written by Ron Hamilton called, “Little by Little.” “V1: When mountains tower rugged and high, rise to the challenge, look to the sky. Trust in the Lord and start out to climb. Reach for the goal one step at a time. Chorus: Little by little, inch by inch; by the yard it’s hard, by the inch, what a cinch; Never stare up the stairs, just step up the steps; Little by little, inch by inch. V2: Growing in Christ takes work ev’ry day, Reading your Bible, learning to pray. Building godly habits, seek help divine. Great things are done one step at a time.”

Lesson Objective: To understand what yard is and how hard it is to tackle large things in our lives. To learn that we can tackle large things when we go to God for help and then break them down into small things.

Did you pass or did you fail?

1Praises III, Majesty Music, p. 90

Day 24: X is for Xenophobe

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” Hebrews 13:2

X is for xenophobe. Okay, before you get too far ahead of me here, yes, this is a word … and it has substantial meaning for us today. 

I was dreading this day because in all honesty, how many “x” words do I know? Hmm … one!? X-ray! All other words that I know with an “x” begin with an “e.” Ugh!

Last week at the Christian Writer’s Workshop, Sister De, the guest speaker, gave me a writer’s treasure … Merriam-Webster’s Everyday Language Reference Set! I am completely in love! It has The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, The Merriam-Webster Thesaurus, and Merriam-Webster’s Vocabulary Builder. I have seen the two former ones before but I have never seen the last one. 

What great timing though, because today truly was a day that I needed to expand my vocabulary. My only drawback though was this thought, “If I expand my vocabulary as a writer, how will my readers know all of my new words?” Well, we will learn together! So, here we are … xenophobe.

We all know what phobe means. It is a derivative of phobia meaning fear. So, xenophobe means one who has a fear or hatred for strangers. A stranger is defined as one who is strange (different); a foreigner; one who is in the place of another; one who is unacquainted. Well, that certainly brings us to a very fine point here, does it not? 

Yes, we are that stranger, that different one, that foreigner, that one who is living in another’s place, are we not? I Peter 2:9 tells us that we “are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar [different from the normal; distinctive] people …” Why would God want us to be strangers on earth? Why would He not take us home to live with Him once we are saved? Well, I Peter 2:9-10 goes on to answer, “that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God.”

As a stranger, this world is not our permanent home. It is only a temporary residing place. When we travel, I do not take all of my belongings … even though my husband thinks so! Why? Because it would be a lot to carry around, but even more important, I will not be there long. I believe that we, as so-called children of God, have become too rooted in this world. We have forgotten that we are not here permanently. Not only are we not here permanently, but we are here for a      purpose. That sole purpose is to glorify God in our body and in our spirit so that we may reflect His light to a sinful, dying world.

Lesson Objective: To understand what xenophobe is. To learn that as strangers in a foreign land, we are not to dig roots and hide among the world, but we are to be set on a hill to shine forth the light of the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ.

Did you pass or did you fail?

Day 23: W is for Window

What?  Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” I Corinthians 6:19

W is for window. A window is an opening in the wall of a building which allows light to pass through; a transparent piece of material that also allows one to see inside of a structure.

How many buildings have you seen lately that do not have any windows? There is such a limited quantity that you could most likely count them on one hand, could you not?  Windows not only give a structure character, but they serve multiple purposes as well. I could very well write an additional devotion on just that itself.

A couple of weeks ago our pastor preached on broken windows. He brought out some points that I had never thought about before. When a building has a window broken and it is not fixed, it sends out a message to all those who see it. It is a message of “I do not care.” If someone cared, they would find a way to fix it. If we care enough about the broken windows in our lives, we will find a way to fix them. If we do not already know how, we can seek the help of someone who does. Who better than God?

Something else happens when that window is left in its broken state. More windows are broken. More of the building is vandalized. Where we live, graffiti is a constant battle. If graffiti is not painted over immediately, guess what happens? More gangs come along and add to it. Pretty soon it has gotten completely out of control … and to think that it all started with that first little marking.

After 23 years of traveling in ministry, I can say that we have seen a lot of buildings with broken windows. My mind struggles to comprehend how anyone can just let a building sit abandoned and let it fall in on itself. No matter how many times that I have been frustrated to not be able to conjure up the answer to that, it still always saddens me to know that somewhere along the way someone neglected to fix what was broken.

It all starts with the little things. When we miss one church service, how easy is it to miss another and then another and another? When we do not take time to pray one day, how easy is it to skip another day and then another? When someone does something to annoy us, do we correct our attitude right then or do we leave it there to be added to when it inevitably happens again? When we let pride slip in, it slides in even easier when the door is open even a smidgen.

Our bodies are God’s temples. Let us do our best to keep them cleaned up and in good repair. We definitely do not want to advertise to the enemy that our temple is weak and easily broken into.

Lesson Objective: To understand how important a window is. To learn that it is the little things, left unchecked, that cause the most destruction.

Did you pass or did you fail?

Day 22: V is for Vessel

But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonor. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel unto honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work.” II Timothy 2:20-21

V is for vessel. A vessel is a container for holding something; a person into whom a quality has been infused or permeated with (such as grace).

God formed man from the dust of the ground (Genesis 2:7) just as the potter forms the clay. On Day 16, we saw that the potter had three main types of vessels. Do you remember what they were? There was the earthen vessel; one made from the earth. There was stoneware, which was very durable and heavy. Then there was the porcelain vessel; the one with exceptional beauty and costly.

Did you notice something in the last paragraph? Each and every vessel had a purpose! We are simply vessels in the Master Potter’s hands; therefore, we also have a very special purpose. No matter what type of unique vessel we are … for God has made each of us unique in our own way (Psalm 139:14) … we should strive to be a vessel of honour.

In our verses today, we learn that there are vessels that are honourable, and there are vessels that are not honourable. So, how do we know what type of vessel we are? Well, it depends on what is put inside of us. Have we gotten lackadaisical in our daily lives and allowed little impurities to slip into our vessel? Or have we been diligent to study and to learn how to keep our vessels free from sin?

What does an honourable vessel look like? II Timothy 2:21 tells us that it is one that is sanctified. To be sanctified means to be set apart for a sacred purpose; to be free from sin. We all sin. Everyday. We are all made in human flesh; consequently, not one of us is exempt from sinning (Isaiah 64:6).

Because of Christ’s shed blood on the cross, we are no longer bound by those chains of sin. Yes, we can sin. But, often that sin is of choice. Be honest … we choose to sin. God has made a way for us to escape though (I Corinthians 10:13); literally, leaving us with no excuse. Once we have sinned, we must then confess that sin and turn from it so that our vessel may be clean again.

Lesson Objective: To understand what a vessel is. To learn that not all vessels are honourable. To be honourable our vessel must be sanctified; when it is sanctified, then it is usable by our Master.

Did you pass or did you fail?

Over and over, He molds me and makes me, Into His likeness He fashions the clay. A vessel of honor I am today. All because Jesus didn’t throw the clay away. — Terri Gibbs

Day 21: U is for Unforgiveness

Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another … even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.” Colossians 3:13

U is for unforgiveness. To properly define and understand unforgiveness, we must define the word forgive. To forgive is a verb, and it means to cease to feel resentment against (an offender). Forgiveness requires an action. To not forgive requires doing nothing. But, what happens when we do nothing in the area of forgiveness? Well, to begin with, we become more angry, more upset, more annoyed, more bitter, and even more unforgiving.

How in the world can this be? It can! I have seen it … multiple times … where it has dug such deep roots that it has caused these people to suffer tremendous health issues. When unforgiveness is left unchecked, it grows. It will grow to such a  point that it literally chokes the physical and spiritual life out of you. This is so sad!

As we saw earlier, resentment in our lives is the true culprit for unforgiveness. When you have resentment toward someone, basically you are either upset, angry, or annoyed. What are some situations that would make us feel this way? Well, it can be a disobedient or rebellious child, a person who does not respect you, a person who has offended you, parents who were over strict or harsh in their relationship with you, a spouse who does not meet your needs or has had an affair, a person that you respect who has not kept a confidence that you shared, a friend who has talked about you behind your back, a person who has abused you (as a child or as an adult), or a person who has ignored or rejected your love.

How can we overcome such great hurts in our lives … and these can cause GREAT hurts? How can we even begin to have a spirit of forgiveness well up inside of us? We are only going to be able to do that when we have put ourselves in God’s shoes … for we MUST forgive as God forgives … for that is what TRUE forgiveness is.

· Look beyond the person’s fault and see the spiritual need of the person … oftentimes the reason that a person has acted a certain way (done a certain thing) is because of what is going on inside of them … in their heart. I Samuel 16:7

· Forgive expecting nothing in return (forgiveness IS a ONE-way street). Luke 23:34a

· God’s forgiveness is forever. Isaiah 43:25

· It never reminds … never brings up again. Hebrews 8:12

· It was His will to forgive … it is not based on feeling; it is a choice; it is a matter or making up your mind; it is a        decision that is right in the eyes of God. Luke 23:34a

· Through God’s forgiveness, His loves shines through. Romans 5:8

· Putting aside all thoughts of revenge … taking your hurt and your pain and placing it in Jesus’ hands to let Him judge.  I Peter 2:23

Lesson Objective: To understand what unforgiveness is. To learn how we can forgive when that is the last thing that our heart wants to do.

Did you pass or did you fail?

1Info in this devotion is from “How to Forgive…When you don’t feel like it” by June Hunt; Harvest House Publishers