What Are You A.S.K.ing For?

Most parents love to give gifts to their children—and a lot of them excel at it.

 

Gifts that parents give their kids come in a variety of packages.

 

A lot of parents give their children new cars on their 16th birthday. But one set of parents I know gave their son a riding lawn mower and an edger and a blower so he could build a lawn business that will help him pay for college. They also helped him purchase a used pick-up truck to carry the lawn equipment to his clients.

 

Most parents take their children clothes shopping several times a year, buying them their basic wardrobe needs, plus clothes for special occasions, as well as whatever latest trends their friends are wearing. Other parents give their older children an annual or seasonal amount of money for their wardrobe and help them learn to budget while they are still at home.

 

If the children were given a choice, I’m sure they would always choose the easy way—like the new car and the shopping trips paid for by their parents. But if they could see the wisdom they would acquire and how it would serve them the rest of their life by taking the other route . . . I STILL think most of them would choose the easy route.

 

Because they’re children. And that’s why they need parents who know what’s best for them—whether it’s the easy way in one particular situation or the more indirect route in another.

 

As Jesus followers, we have THE BEST DADDY. Our Heavenly Father knows exactly what we need—and He’s not looking at just today. He has the unique perspective that allows Him to know what we need NOW that will give us the best advantage in the future.

 

Have you ever asked God for something and He gave you something totally different? I know I have. And at the time, I wondered why He didn’t give me what I asked for. I wasn’t asking for anything evil. In fact, it was what I considered the best answer for the situation.

 

But later on—to be honest it was YEARS down the road—I looked back and saw what He did and why. The wisdom I gained by not getting the “easy” answer has given me the advantage in many situations in my life.

 

The Amplified Bible says “keep on” asking, seeking, and knocking. And it says to knock “reverently.” Jesus isn’t telling us to “name it and claim it” here.

 

I think He’s saying that if you’re not getting your answer as quickly as you think you need it, don’t give up.

  • Keep going to God and asking Him because He is the source of all good gifts.
  • Keep looking for His answer because it’s going to show up. It may not show up when or where you expect it and it may look totally different than you thought it would. But it will show up.
  • Keep reverently knocking on that closed door. Not demanding, but expecting it to open.

 

And then KNOW that your Heavenly Daddy is going to give you the absolute BEST gift. He knows what’s best for you and He has the power to bring it about in your life.

 

Your gift from God may not be wrapped like you expect. It may not be the gift you think you asked for. In fact, it may be the exact opposite of what you were expecting Him to give you.

 

But you can trust that God doesn’t make mistakes and He doesn’t give His children anything but the best.

 

So say, “Thank You, Daddy.” And then smile, because this gift is going to work to your advantage for years to come.

 

 

Matthew 7:7-11 (AMP)

Keep on asking and it will be given you; keep on seeking and you will find; keep on knocking [reverently] and [the door] will be opened to you.

For everyone who keeps on asking receives; and he who keeps on seeking finds; and to him who keeps on knocking, [the door] will be opened.

Or what man is there of you, if his son asks him for a loaf of bread, will hand him a stone?

10 Or if he asks for a fish, will hand him a serpent?

11 If you then, evil as you are, know how to give good and advantageous gifts to your children, how much more will your Father Who is in heaven [perfect as He is] give good and advantageous things to those who keep on asking Him!

 

 

Middle Names

My middle name is Jane. Not real exciting, but it goes well with Rhonda. And Tarzan.

 

I’m usually just called Rhonda, but have been called Rhonda Jane by a few people. And as a child, when I was not minding very well, all three names would sometimes come out of my mother’s mouth in order to get my attention. It usually worked.

 

However, for a long time, my REAL middle name was “Worry.” You know what I mean. Like someone who says “Football” is his middle name, meaning he “eats, sleeps, and breathes football.”

 

That’s how I was with “Worry.” I remember waking every morning and enjoying peace for a few seconds—until whatever item was currently on top of my “worry list” popped into my brain. And if nothing showed up, I would quickly think back to what I went to bed worrying about. Soon my “worrier” would shift into overdrive and I was stuck in fear for the rest of the day, wondering what was going to happen and how I was going to survive it.

 

Worry ruled my life. I spent a lot of time imagining future events turning out catastrophically for me. I talked about what I was worrying about. I continuously thought about what I was worried about.

 

Life was not fun.

 

Then I was confronted with truth. It happened in a Bible study I attended after college. I’m not sure how we ended up studying Philippians 4:6-7, but I know it was by God’s design.

 

The truth in those verses hit me square in the face. Suddenly I knew the worry that was ruling my life was not necessary. I didn’t have to continue living life like that. And these verses showed exactly how to stop worry in its tracks.

 

It was such a life-changer for me that I immediately memorized the passage and can still quote it today. I memorized the Living Bible (1970’s) version which is so clear. It says,

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank Him for His answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can comprehend. His peace will keep your thoughts and your heart quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:6-7

 

It is literally a recipe for peace that I still use today.

 

The last several verses in Matthew 6 also talk about worry, going into detail about some of the major items we don’t need to worry about, like food and clothing. We’re told we don’t need to worry because our heavenly Father already knows what we need.

 

Instead of worrying, we’re told to seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness first and “all these things will be given to you as well.” That’s a powerful promise. About as powerful as having a peace in your life so wonderful you can’t even comprehend it.

 

Both of these passages remind me of a triangle. We’re sitting in one ‘corner’ looking at the opposite corner that represents WHAT we’re lacking or WHAT we’re worried will happen. But what we need to do is look up—move our focus from WHAT to WHO. Pray about everything, tell God our needs, thank Him for His answers, seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.

 

In other words, we are to change our perspective by focusing on our relationship with God, on how good he is, how much He loves us, and how well He takes care of His children. Get our eyes off our problems and onto our Provider. Move our focus to the top of the triangle. And keep it there.

 

What’s your middle name?

 

If it’s “Worry,” you can change it. I can tell you from personal experience that life is much better as Rhonda Jane.

 

 

 

Matthew 6:25-34 New International Version (NIV)

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Model Prayer Overview

We completed our focus on the individual verses in the model prayer last week.

 

But there are a few things about the prayer in general that I would like to mention.

 

Over the last couple of years, I’ve learned a lot about God and my relationship with Him: how big He is, how much He loves me, that He is always for me, and how good a Daddy He is to His children. It’s not that I didn’t know any of those things before now. They’ve just been made plain through the teaching I’ve been under—more plain than I’ve ever heard them explained before.

 

And that knowledge has radically changed my relationship with God. And I think that’s why this prayer struck me totally different this time than any other time I’ve studied it.

 

This time I noticed that the model prayer is very positive. It’s not focused on negative things going on, and the language itself is positive.

 

I noticed that there is no begging or pleading. At all. It’s almost as if the person praying trusts God to answer His prayer and do what’s best.

 

I also noticed there is no repetition. Apparently the person praying expects God to be listening.

 

I also noticed there is not one request presented that’s followed by “if it be thy will.” There is a positive affirmation about God’s kingdom coming and His will being done—but there’s no “if” anywhere to be found.

 

And I realized, as I studied this time, that my praying has changed over the last couple of years. I believe that has everything to do with the fact that my relationship with God has changed based on what I’ve been learning.

 

I now know He is my good Heavenly Daddy who wants the very best for me. He is always listening. And I can trust Him to answer my prayers. They may not be answered like I want them answered. And they may not be answered based on my timetable.

 

But God will always answer my prayers in a way that provides what is best for me.

 

Because He is GOD. And He is GOOD.

 

Amen.

God, Save Me!

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” – Matthew 6:13 NIV

This will be a short blog post because this is a pretty short verse.

And because I’m not sure I understand it very well.

Almost every version/translation of this verse says essentially the same thing, although a few use ‘testing’ in the place of ‘temptation’ and some end with ‘deliver us from evil’ instead of ‘the evil one.’

My problem is that we know from other places in scripture, and from our knowledge of His character, that God doesn’t tempt us. Which is what the first part of this sentence seems to be saying . . . “lead us not into temptation . . . .”

It would make more sense to me if this sentence in the prayer said, “God, lead me FAR AWAY from temptation and rescue me when I venture too close to it!”

That’s what I would like it to say.

And, to be honest, that’s how I pray some times. “God, save me from myself!” Because, if I’m honest, there are times when I know better but still get too close to things (relationships, activities, attitudes) I shouldn’t spend my valuable time, energy, and emotions on. Things that I know, based on my history, have a tendency to sidetrack me and pull my focus away from God and the path He wants me on.

While God doesn’t ever tempt us, He will occasionally lead us into a time of testing. If you haven’t experienced testing personally, I’m sure you know someone who has. And if you don’t, just check out the book of Job, or the story of Abraham being asked by God to sacrifice his son Isaac, or the story in the New Testament where the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness immediately following his baptism to be tested by Satan.

While these times of testing can (and do) build our faith, I believe their primary purpose is to reveal the faith we already have. To show those around us that God is the focus and foundation of our life—and that He is worthy of all our praise and our trust.

Even when what He leads us to and through doesn’t make sense.

Kinda like this verse

Does Not Compute

“And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” – Matthew 6:12 NIV

 

This verse in the model prayer talks about God forgiving our debts (sins, trespasses).

 

And it also talks about us forgiving other people for their debts (sins, trespasses).

 

This can be a confusing verse because it seems God is requiring something of us, besides faith and trust, in ‘exchange’ for His forgiveness. But having to work for our salvation doesn’t concur with the free gift of eternal life (free to us, not to Him) Jesus offers throughout the New Testament. And just like we came into a relationship with God through faith, our life after salvation is to be a continued walk of faith in what He has done for us and wants to do through us.

 

Then I realized something. Forgiving others—sometimes of horrible things they’ve done to us or to someone we love—IS an act of faith and trust in God. It shows that we believe and trust that God will fulfill His promise in Romans 8:28 and bring something good out of the harm that was done, “ . . . in all things God works for the good . . . .”

 

It also reminds me of what Joseph said to his brothers in Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good . . . .”

 

And, the opposite of that—NOT forgiving someone because it’s too hard or we just don’t want to—demonstrates a lack of faith and trust in God. I think it shows that we think we know better than God what extending forgiveness will do. We think it will make us look weak, or that it will appear we don’t think what the other person did was wrong, or that we’re saying it didn’t really hurt or that we are just going to forget it ever happened.

 

I’m not sure you can ever truly forgive someone until you have experienced God’s forgiveness. But once you have experienced it, I don’t believe you have an excuse NOT to forgive.

 

It’s not easy. It takes time for your feelings to catch up with your decision to forgive—because forgiveness is a choice, not a feeling. In the beginning you have to confirm your forgiveness of them multiple times a day. And you may never forget what they did.

 

But like Jesus says in the model prayer—and immediately following it in verses 14-15—once you’ve been forgiven of EVERY WRONG YOU’VE EVER DONE, your life as a believer will be characterized by forgiveness.

 

Living any other way just does not compute!

 

===============

Who do you need to forgive?

 

What do you need to forgive them for?

 

How long has it been since it happened?

 

What have you gained by hanging on to your resentment?

 

When are you going to make the decision to forgive them?

A Good Daddy

“Give us today our daily bread.” – Matthew 6:11 New International Version (NIV)

 

 

This little phrase is so easy to just run right over when we’re reciting this prayer. But it’s such an important part, we don’t need to miss it.

 

For me, it is such a reminder of the manna from Heaven that God provided for the Israelites during their 40-year journey in the wilderness.

 

Just think about that. Every day. (Except Sabbaths—so a double portion on Fridays.) For 40 years. For over a million people. And He never failed to provide. Not once.

 

And in addition, their clothes didn’t wear out. And their shoes stayed intact. And He provided a cooling cloud by day and a warming cloud by night to protect them from the elements.

 

Every little thing they were lacking in the desert, He provided for them.

 

Even when they were begging to go back to Egypt, He provided for them.

 

Even when they worshiped the golden calf, He provided for them.

 

Even when they refused to go into the Promised Land because they were afraid—afraid that the God who parted the Red Sea so they walked through on dry land and then closed it up and drowned all the Egyptians that were pursuing them—afraid He wouldn’t help them defeat the enemies in the land He said was theirs for the taking. The place that was their sole destination after leaving Egypt and the exclusive reason for the exodus in the first place.

 

He STILL provided for them.

 

He’s a faithful and trustworthy Father who loves His children and provides for them even when they are faithless and doubting.

 

That includes me.

 

Because I have been faithless and doubting in my relationship with Him just like the Israelites were.

 

And He’s proven to me over and over and over again that He is never going to forget me or forsake me or fail to provide for me or fail to fulfill any promise He makes to me.

 

I’m so thankful His provision for me—just like the Israelites—does not depend on my behavior. I’m so glad His provision for me—just like the Israelites—is based on my position.

 

I’m His child.

 

And He’s a good Daddy.

 

 

– What are you having trouble trusting God for right now?

 

– How has He provided for you in the past?

 

– How do you believe He wants to use this current situation in your life?

 

– What are you going to choose to do?

Safe or Powerful?

“Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” – Matthew 6:10

 

This is probably the part of the model prayer that I pray more than any other part. And I bet I’m not the only one.

 

Sometimes I think I pray it because it’s safe. And easy. I just ask that God’s will be done in a particular situation I need to pray for. And that’s as far as I go.

 

I’m not saying that’s necessarily a bad way to pray, but I’m not sure it’s the best way to utilize this part of the model prayer. And it’s definitely not the most powerful way.

 

There are two ways I think may be better ways to pray this particular verse.

 

The first is something I learned from Graham Cooke when he spoke at our church recently. He was not talking about this model prayer, he was just talking about prayer in general. But the idea he shared really got my attention. He said since Jesus is our Advocate in Heaven and is always praying for us, why don’t we ask Jesus how He’s praying about our particular situation, then get in agreement with Him, and pray like He’s praying.

 

Brilliant!

 

If we’re praying about a situation the same way Jesus is praying about it, then we are definitely in line with this part of the model prayer.

 

The second idea I have about how to pray this verse is to ask Holy Spirit what your role is in bringing God’s kingdom and will into the particular situation you’re praying about.

 

I may be wrong, but I don’t think God is waiting on His children to beg for His will to be done in their lives and then deciding whether or not He’s going to drop it into their particular situation. I believe God wants His will to be done in our lives more than anything. And I believe He’s waiting for someone to ASK, SEEK, and KNOCK to find out what His will is and then watching for them to PROCLAIM IT and DO IT.

 

I think a lot of people pray this verse like it is a request—and I don’t think it is. I think it’s meant to be a proclamation. “Your kingdom come, Your will be done . . . .” And when we pray that way, we are saying that we will do our part to make sure God’s will is done in whatever earthly realm we have dominion—whether that is as an individual, a family member, an employee, a ministry team member, a Little League baseball coach, a local police officer or the President of the United States. We all have a part to play in bringing God’s kingdom to earth.

 

I think some people are reluctant to pray for God’s will because they’re afraid of what He might ‘do’ to them, or where He may send them, or what they may have to give up. But there’s really no reason for us to be afraid to pray for God’s will. God loves us without measure and He is totally trustworthy. He is always for us and His plans for us are always to prosper us and not to harm us (Jeremiah 29:11). And God is working ALL THINGS together for our good (Romans 8:28).

 

I once heard a definition of God’s will that I LOVE. Ike Reighard was my pastor over a decade ago and he shared this definition one Sunday. He said, “God’s will is what you would choose if you had all the facts.”

 

If you knew everything God knows about you and your situation, including who He created you to be and the unbelievably incredible plans He has for you, you would choose God’s will every time.

 

I like that. So even if I don’t have all the facts, I know I can trust that God’s will for me is the very best.

 

So that’s how I’m going to pray—proclaiming that God’s will be done here on earth just like it is in Heaven, and then doing my part to bring Heaven to earth. I can’t wait to see what that looks like.

 

Want to join me?

 

What is the main situation you are currently spending time praying about? How is Jesus praying about that situation?

 

What is one thing you can do today to help bring Heaven to earth in your home or office or community?

 

Keep It Holy

After the salutation that states who God is and where He resides, the first phrase in the model prayer refers to God’s name and how sacred it is. This phrase is usually translated “hallowed be Thy name” but there are a few other translations. Here are a couple that are easier to understand:

“. . . we honor your holy name.” – Matthew 6:9 (TLB)

“. . . may your name be kept holy. – Matthew 6:9 (NLT)

 

This phrase is not a request for anything. Instead it’s a positive, affirming statement that tells God we understand how holy He is and, therefore, how sacred His name is — and how important it is for us to maintain our reverence for His name.

 

A long time before this model prayer is given, God let people know how serious He takes this issue.  Misusing God’s name is number three on His list of ten commandments in Exodus 20. I’ve most often heard this as a commandment against swearing by God’s name to support a false statement or just using His name profanely.

 

But I believe there’s also another way we need to honor His name and keep it holy. And that is by the way we live our lives.

 

As believers, we are known by His name. We are known as Christians (‘little Christs’) or God Followers or Jesus Freaks or any other number of brands we’re given–or have given ourselves.

 

So how we live our lives reflects on God’s name.

 

My pastor said something in Sunday’s service that I loved! We were praying for the first responders, elected officials and school teachers who were in our services. He asked God to remind them every day that they are sons and daughters of The Most High God and because of that, they need to ‘walk with a royal gait.’

 

Walk with a royal gait. I love that. He wasn’t talking about being arrogant. He was talking about walking with honor and dignity and grace and mercy! I believe that is part of keeping God’s name holy–remembering who WE are because of the relationship we have with The Most High God.

 

And knowing who we are will change the way we live our lives.

 

And that will help pre-believers see God’s love up close and personal.

 

=========

 

What do I need to change about the way I use God’s name?

 

How well does my life honor my Heavenly Father’s name?

Praying to Our Father

Jesus started off the model prayer He shared in Matthew 6 with a brief salutation. But what it may lack in length, it more than makes up for in depth.

This prayer is addressed to “Our Father in heaven.”

Those four words tell me several things:

I’m not an orphan. I have a Daddy who calls me His child.

And I’m not an only child. I apparently have brothers and sisters, hence “our Father.”

And our Father is in heaven. This tells me He has a different perspective on my life. He doesn’t just see it as it unfolds day-by-day, like I tend to view it. God sees my life from beginning to end.

He sees where I fit into His timeline and His purposes. He sees who my contemporaries are and how He created and designed us to do Kingdom work together.

He sees what’s around the bend and over the next hill. He knows the mountains I need to be prepared to climb and the valleys I will go through along the way. And because He’s my Father, He has designed my life so I’ll be prepared to climb those upcoming mountains and He’ll be with me as I walk through the valleys.

And because He’s OUR Father, I can always know that I’m never alone on my journey. Never.

And there will be times in life that make that truth difficult to remember.

A great example is in the book of I Kings when Elijah got depressed after the showdown on Mount Carmel.

Elijah had essentially set up a prayer duel between himself and all the prophets of Baal, to prove whose God was worth worshiping. And Jehovah God showed up there in an incredible way and proved Elijah was right and King Ahab and all the prophets of Baal were wrong. God proved that He is God and Baal is not. HUGE victory!

But afterwards, Ahab ran back home to Jezebel with his tail between his legs and tattled on Elijah, telling her how Elijah had humiliated Ahab in front of all his friends. So Jezebel threatened Elijah and told him he would be dead within 24 hours.

And even after all he had just witnessed God do on Mount Carmel, Elijah responded to Jezebel’s threat by running away and hiding. He told God he’d had enough. And He told God to just go ahead and take his life.

Then after some food and rest, Elijah tells God that he’s the “only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” Cue the Pity Party song.

God responds to Elijah’s self-pity by telling him about his next mission, which included other God worshipers, and then informed him that there were 7,000 people in Israel who had not bowed down to Baal or kissed him. I think Elijah got the message. He was not alone.

When we’ve gone through a highly emotional time or been in a tough spiritual battle . . . even when the outcome is extremely positive . . . it can be easy for us to get depressed, to feel alone, to want to hide.

Sometimes what we need to do is rest and eat and rest and eat.

But then we need to engage with God again and get ready for our next mission. And we always need to remember that we are never alone in our journey . . . even though we may feel like it at times.

Our heavenly Father’s presence lives inside us — Holy Spirit — and there are other God worshipers who walk beside us.

We are not alone.

========

How do you address God when you talk to Him?

How often do you feel and act as though you are a spiritual orphan? A spiritual only child?

What is your Kingdom purpose and who has God placed in your life to work with you?

How is God preparing you for your future?

Where are you now? On a mountain? In a valley?

When is the last time you felt depressed and totally alone in your mission? What did you do to recover? How did God help you gain clarity?

=========

“Our Father Who is in heaven . . . .” Matthew 6:9 Amplified Version (AMP)

It’s Your Choice

Since we have a Father God who knows what we need before we even ask Him . . .

“Pray, therefore, like this: ‘Our Father Who is in heaven, hallowed (kept holy) be Your name.’” Matthew 6:9 Amplified Version (AMP)

Just this first sentence of the sample prayer that Jesus shares is powerful. He then goes on to give us the entire prayer as an example of how a God-follower can actually converse with the Creator of the Universe.

That we CAN talk to God is unbelievable. But add to that the fact that He WANTS us to have an intimate relationship with Him and to be comfortable carrying on a conversation with the One all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful, all-creative, never-ending being who IS LOVE is enough to make my brain hurt.

And it humbles me. To the point that the only response I have is to offer Him all I’ve got. Which I then discover is nothing, because He owns everything I have. He’s given it all to me.

He gave me life. He gives me each breath. He provided a way for me to have eternal life through the death of His Son Jesus. He even gave me the faith to believe so I could experience that provision. And he gives me the praise I give Him as my response to His infinite love for me.

So what exactly can I give Him?

The only thing I find that I actually own is my will. My choices.

That’s how He created me. And you. I believe He gave every human being free will because He didn’t want a family of robots who HAD to love Him and do whatever He told them to do. He wants children who CHOOSE to love Him in response to His perfect love and to obey Him because we trust His infinite goodness.

Each individual gets to choose whether to love Him back or not. We get to choose whether to live our life for Him or not. We can choose to live for this world and all it has to offer us. Or we can choose to live our life focused on God and what He has planned for us . . . which is always GOOD. (Jeremiah 29:11)

Not good like chocolate cake and candy for every meal . . . which is what a child might think is good. But good like healthy food in healthy portions and regular exercise and sufficient sleep every night. That kind of good.

God knows exactly what you need in your life to become the person He created you to be, to fulfill the purpose He created you for, and to be ready to do the good works He has prepared for you to do. The way we become that person and fulfill that purpose and do those good works is to surrender our will to Him and follow His loving plan for our lives.

And that’s what this prayer is all about. Your choices. Your will.

It’s all you’ve got.