The Encourager

The Encourager

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"Lord, Teach us to Pray" - Jeff Curtis

Friday, February 16, 2024

“Lord, Teach us to Pray”

By Jeff Curtis

 

People often ask preachers advice on how to preach, how to teach, how to use power-point, how to write bulletins. But no one has ever asked me to “Teach me how to pray.” That is the request that the disciples of Jesus made of Him; “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1).

 

The apostles had some knowledge of prayer. They likely knew the prayers they had memorized in their synagogue education. They were familiar with the formal prayers of the rabbis, the recited prayers of the priests in the Temple, and the loud and eloquent prayers of the Pharisees. Something was different, though, about the prayers and the prayer life of Jesus. They had seen Him “often slip away to the wilderness and pray (Luke 5:16), or go “up to the mountain by Himself to pray” (Matt. 14:23), and spend “the whole night in prayer to God” (Luke 6:12). They had also seen Him rise from His knees with renewed strength, revived after communicating with His Father. They wanted what He had. And so, the request, “Lord, teach us to pray.”

 

Jesus’ response is found in Luke 11:2-13. He didn’t tell His apostles everything about prayer, but He did share basic truths needed by anyone that desires to improve their prayer life.

 

Be Prayerful. Jesus first repeated what is generally called “The Lord’s Prayer.” More accurately, this could also be called “The Disciples’ Prayer” or “The Model Prayer.” The longer and better-known version is found in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt.6:9-25). This example teaches us a lot about the God we approach in prayer.

 

We come to God – our Father. And so, the prayer begins with the word “Father.”

 

We come to God – the Divine being: “Hallowed by Your name.” To “hallow” is to “treat as holy.” The third of the Ten Commandments was “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain” (Exo. 20:7). The first concern in every prayer should be to honor and glorify God.

 

Be Persistent. To encourage His disciples to pray, Jesus told them the parable of the persistent host in Luke 11:5-8. In the parable, a friend arrived at midnight. In those days, hospitality wasn’t just a social nicety, it was a practical necessity and a moral obligation. There was no food in the cupboards, but there was room. The man went to a neighbor and knocked persistently to receive bread for his guest.

 

Be Patient. Why should we persist in prayer? Because God answers prayer. He who asked received, who sought found, and he who knocked had the door opened. This truth is illustrated in the parable of the persistent host. The asking, seeking, knocking man got three loaves of bread he needed.

 

Be Positive. We have every reason to remain positive concerning the prayers we utter. The fact is reinforced in Christ’s closing words in vv. 11-13. A boy comes to his father and asks for a fish. Then asks his father for an egg. The father would trick the son with something other than food.

 

Jesus said that fathers who care about their sons don’t play unkind tricks on them, and neither does our heavenly Father. Earlier Jesus used the same analogy, He had said, “How much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” Matt.7:11).

 

It was important for the disciples to learn how to pray. Ahead of them lay Gethsemane, the trials of Jesus, His scourging, the jeers of the mob, horror of the cross, and the dark silence of the tomb. Today, wea are also faced with many trials and temptations. It is equally important for us to learn how to pray.

 

 

Passage to meditate on:

 Proverbs 17:14

The beginning of strife is like releasing water; therefore, stop contention before a quarrel starts.

A Moral Dilemma - Jeff Curtis

Saturday, February 10, 2024

A Moral Dilemma

By Jeff Curtis

 

Challenges to God’s moral teachings often create a dilemma for the church. Christians have to find ways to keep moral standards intact while helping offenders heal and be reunited to the community. Many moral issues create the dilemma of how to sort out all the wrongs in a way that accomplishes the best. Moral violations inflame others due to their lack of respect, brutality, and consequences. Attempting to address moral infractions while filled with anger, pain, and grief can often result in the creation of more moral dilemmas.

 

The rape of the Levite’s concubine in Judges 20, and Israel’s response to the immoral actions of Gibeah show the difficulty of moving beyond such problems. When people are faced with a moral failure and have no interest in making the Lord their King, their response to the sin can be worse than the original offense.

 

This story reveals what happened when there was no king in Israel. When sin occurs, the first question we need to answer is “Who is our King?” Such negotiations can avoid responses that deepen the pain and violence rather than soothe them. The second question we should think about is “Are we just doing what is right in our own eyes, or are we trying to please the Lord?”

 

In the midst of anger, hate, pride, pain, grief and fear, offended people often resort to selfish responses and shortsighted solutions. These are based on the own misguided attempts to right the wrong. Looking to God can allow emotions and the impulsive urge to respond to subside. Once calmed, those involved can ask themselves, “What would God have us to do in the face of such horror?”

 

This reflection also alerts Christians to the need to make sure that the moral wrongs are resolved. Prior to reaching a final and godly solution, Christians must sometimes take steps to stop the cascade of immorality before it hurts more people and causes more damage.

 

“Just As I Am”

by Frank Himmel

The song Just as I Am is one of our most commonly used invitation songs. The idea in the song is that we cannot make ourselves right with God on our own; apart from Jesus’ blood we have no hope. That is precisely the New Testament picture (Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:5; etc.).

I fear, however, that some folks have an erroneous idea about Jesus saving us “just as we are.” They seem to think that He saves us without any change in our conduct. That is opposite to the New Testament picture.

Jesus’ charge to the apostles was “that repentance for forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all the nations” (Lk. 24:47). Forgiveness is extended to those willing to abandon sinful conduct, not to those who insist on continuing in it.

Paul wrote to the Corinthian Christians, “Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you…” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). He did not say such are some of you, but such were. They changed their conduct in connection with being washed, sanctified, and justified (v. 11).

“Just as I am,” if referring to our own helplessness, is a comforting sentiment. But to suggest it means salvation without repentance is to hold out false hope.

 

 

Weekly Bible Meditation:

 

Proverbs 16:31

The silver-haired head is a crown of glory, if it is found in the way of righteousness.

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