Meditation: Gaining the Mind of Christ through Prayer

Meditation, pondering spiritual themes in reference to God, helps us understand how to apply God’s truths and gain insight into God’s truth.
It helps us understand difficult passages, relate truths to other scripture passages, network doctrines together and come to biblical understandings of doctrinal systems, and helps us distinguish between concepts, among other things. In Joshua 1:8, we are told to meditate on the Law day and night so that we will not depart from the way of God. Because of meditation, God will make our ways prosperous and successful.
Meditation is a part of praying without ceasing. It is pondering, chewing on biblical concepts and going at them in different angles, looking at the supposed contradictions of faith and the Bible only to ultimately crack the shell and find the truth therein.  We must work to find it and only when we really intend to obey the principle wrought by that word should we expect to find truth.
God doesn’t intend to impart undiscovered truth on us until we intend to obey it.
Meditation helps us gain and learn the mind of Christ, to be more and more like our Lord.
Because we don’t meditate, thinking clearly and biblically, we have messed up ideas of Scripture and doctrine. We then depend on others thinking.  We don’t want to do it ourselves.  When asked to justify our beliefs, many say, “That’s what so and so said, I heard it on TV.”  We are chronically gullible because we cannot distinguish ideas, due to our lack of meditation.
Meditation yields inner peace, brings greater satisfaction in our devotional lives, and gives us an opportunity to be a more obedient servant. It gives us a divine perspective, that we may see God’s thoughts and God’s ways. Meditation can help us understand life better and make better sense of our circumstances..
The fruit of meditation is insight to truth.  Truth liberates and changes things.

Thanking God in Prayer

Thanksgiving is related to praise but they are not one and the same. Thanksgiving is to express appreciation for the things that God has done for you, for others, or for any acts He has performed. Praise is to express appreciation for who God is, His Person, His Word, His Attributes.
Thanksgiving is mental or vocal. It is to be specific gratitude. Thanksgiving– like the whole of prayer itself, is not just an act, but a lifestyle (1 Thess 5:17-18).
It focuses on God’s faithfulness and thereby increases our faith because it reminds our hearts of what He has done. Faith is always trust based on the Lord’s faithfulness of the past.  Thanksgiving increases that. It is one of the best cures for depression, pity parties, disappointment.
As I asked readers to practice praise a few weeks ago, I ask you again now to practice thanksgiving. Allow your mind to wander through the days activities.  Allow God to direct you toward blessings you overlooked and failed to thank Him for.  Don’t just thank Him, “Thanks God,” but thank Him by exploring the goodness of God in those items.  Thank God specifically, not just a blanket statement. Thank Him individually and sincerely.
You can thank God for His goodness to you, to your family, to the world.
You an thank God for His blessings in the past, His blessings in the present, and His blessings that will come in the future. God’s blessings can be people, things, ideas, confirmation of His will, and nearly anything else. Blessings can be material, spiritual, relational, physical, and external.
You can thank God for His sovereignty and His ruling over the world. The Bible tells us to be joyful in trials and tribulations, so you can also genuinely thank God for tragedy, for hard times, for persecution. Our trials and tribulations bring about our perseverance and develop our character.
Give thanks to God in all circumstances, unceasingly.

Watching for God's Working though Prayer

Just before being arrested, Jesus tells His disciples to watch and pray. ‘Watch’ comes from a Greek word meaning to be alert, awake or vigilant.  Intent, awake in order to guard, close observation.  Spiritually speaking it is to be awake and alert spiritually in order to be on guard.
On guard for what? The wiles of the devil and the working of the divine.  That’s what was the key issue in the garden of Gethsemane– discerning where God or satan was at work.
Watching means to develop discernment. Discernment means to separate truth from falsehood; better to detect and understand a distinction from that which is of God and that which is not.
Most Christians are not discerning.  Most do not always even understand when God is speaking to them and when He is not.  This is due to the neglect of our personal lives. The spirit of God communicates to us through prayer, Bible study, other Christians, and circumstances.  Since many neglect most of these we have only a part of what God is saying to us. For this reason, most Christians don’t know how to distinguish, detect or understand anything other than the most obvious things that aren’t of God– they rely on feelings.
That’s why watching is so important.  It is a time of examination, of peering closer and magnifying everything with the Illuminator. Ephesians 6 describes the armor of God and to conclude the passage, Paul commands the Christians in Ephesus to watch and be alert, continuing in prayer always.
 
Fatigue is often a harm in our prayer, and decreases our ability to watch, because it takes a clarity of mind that is not at our disposal when we are tired and our minds aren’t sharp.  It also makes us more susceptible to sin….Why?  We are not as discerning and do not recognize satantic snares as quickly.  We are reactionary.  Watching then is not an idle activity but an active one that requires diligence and vigilance.
To watch, we must make ourselves aware of satan’s work to hinder our prayer.  He tries to, through various means, distract us from prayer in the first place. Don’t allow satan to draw you from the important prayer issues. Satan works trough fatigue, though distractions, through anything to keep our minds from being alert.
We should keep from praying using meaningless repetition and many words. This can also be tools of satan and may actually weaken our prayer, because we dilute our request or distort it into uselessness. Take time to be aware of the wiles of the devil throughout your life and the world.  Where is he at work in the community, the nation, or the world?  Become aware of it.  Develop discernment and alertness and pray against such things.
 
Watching also means to become more aware of God’s working throughout the world. How is He acting and what is He wanting to do?
There are several things we can do to better watch for God’s working, to be aware of His presence and alert to His voice. Read material that aids you in becoming aware of specific global Christian needs, such as mission awareness books and publications, as well as news material. Newspaper, the radio, television, and news magazines can all inform us of what’s going on in the world, where God and satan are working. Merely looking around can also be a powerful way to watch for and discern God’s work. Weather disasters, picket lines, strikes, world crises, church crises, government actions and other things can all reveal God’s work to us.
Finally, ask the Spirit of God to show you how to react to it.  James 1:5 tells us to ask the Spirit for wisdom. We need wisdom from on High. If He doesn’t guide our prayer as we watch, we could be misled.
 
Watching involves God revealing His mind to us, like 1 Corinthians 2 says, and allowing us to see those mysteries, in a spiritual way.  As we are allowed into this realm, we begin to really identify with these items, and like Ephesians 6 says, we persevere for the saints with supplication, because God ignites our compassion and spiritual sensitivity.
 
We must watch to gain this sensitivity and discernment. This will cause us to pray more specifically, clearly, directly and hence, more powerfully and in line with the desires of God.

Praying Through the Scriptures

The Word is crucial to prayer. The degree to which we believe it and apply it in prayer is the degree that God will pour out His power in our lives.  YOU CAN NEVER expect to grow in spiritual confidence (faith) if you spend little or no time in His word, because that’s where you get to know him.
Use the Bible not just to read, but devotionally.  See it as God’s daily love letter to you, where you respond to what He says to you that day by praying it back to Him.  God’s Word is powerful, “Let there be light”, “peace be still” , “Lazarus, come forth.”  It has ability to create ‘ex nihilo,’ out of nothing.  When we believe God and pray to Him with His powerful word, He is able through faith in Him to create those things out of nothing, when it seems unlikely, because with God, nothing is impossible.
Not faith in faith or even faith in prayer, but have faith in God and the fact that His Word is a representation of His character.  But we don’t just try to have faith in His Word, we have faith in Him– His Person, from whom His Word emanates.  When we read His Word, it is guaranteed to be true, just as a dollar is guaranteed to produce buying power.  Just as a savings bond is guaranteed a return.  Prayer is nothing more than redeeming God’s Word into God’s actions.
Increasing our faith comes through the Word (Romans 10:17).  The Word of God is the Christian’s book of prayer.  It is a guide and foundation for all effective praying. Remember that in Luke 11 when Jesus taught the disciples to pray, part of that was ‘Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.’
How do we know what God’s will is and How He wishes to build his kingdom apart from His word?
We can pray Scripture in praise of God, in our confession, and in the context of any devotional passage. Scriptural prayer flows from the Word of God and is alive, just as the Word is.

Confessing Our Sin in Prayer

Another aspect of prayer to be considered is confession.
Confession, defined as acknowledgment or disclosure of sin or sinfulness, is vital in a Christian’s prayer life.
We confess when we miss the mark of God’s holiness. 1 John 1:9 says that, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
But why does this sometimes not seem to work? We confess and are we free?  John isn’t just talking about acknowledgment of sin as confession. Confession as agreeing with God regarding our sinfulness and continuing to do the same thing is not the confession God commands. It implies repentance. It’s true repentance that breaks the chain of sin and sets us free. We are to do an about face, to turn away from sin and turn towards God.
Declared admission. Sometimes we don’t want to confess because we feel so bad about our sin.  God feels worse. It is pride not to go to Him the umpteenth million time.  We must humble ourselves each time.  At the same time, it’s not enough to realize we’ve done wrong.  Realizing our wrongs without confession leads to spiritual lethargy.  When we are aware of sin but do nothing to rid ourselves of it, we are victimized and arrested by sin to inactivity and impotence.
Psalm 66:18 speaks of cherishing sin in your heart. It is one of the many reasons we have unanswered prayer.  I’m not discussing how God answers prayer this week, but a lack of confession and repentance often means that God will not listen to our prayers. When we deliberately and knowingly choose sin over God, He does not listen when we pray.
Heartfelt recognition. We take it seriously.  He doesn’t need to know, we do…  Confession is a time when we ask God to show us what is wrong in our lives and agreeing with Him and placing it under His authority.  Sincerity coupled with action and the intent to forsake that sin.
Confession was the primary activity done in the Holy of Holies because that is what required a high priest.  Now Christ has become that and His presence is the Holy of Holies and you may enter it with confession on your own behalf as a priest and co-heir with Christ.
Confession properly done. Our effort is not actually confession unless we are sorrowful and have an emotion of regret, (we may not necessarily experience guilt though we usually do) We must agree with God about the sinfulness of the sin and its opposition to His character and person; we must turn from that sin and intend not to commit it again.
The results of unconfessed sin. Unconfessed sin dulls the conscience and extinguishes one’s desire to pursue God.  Sin causes spiritual insensitivity, then indifference and leads to blatant apathy.  God won’t powerfully use a dirty vessel.  He doesn’t need a beautiful  one, but He won’t use a dirty one. Isaiah, Daniel and Job were used mightily after confession.  (But we don’t use this as a license– David confessed his sin with Bathsheba and of murder, but never was used as much.  Some offenses’ consequences are so great that they cannot ever be fully overcome– here on earth.)
Confession in prayer leads to confidence in prayer.

Listening in Prayer

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One of the least known elements of prayer is that of listening.
Ecclesiastes 5:2 tells us to “let our words be few”, not to be quick with our mouths of hasty in our hearts. Because God is Lord and King, we are to listen to His Words before seeking to promote our own interests or petitioning for our needs. As Jesus commands His disciples not to pray with useless repetition and meaningless words, we are also to listen first.
Listening is another aspect of the receiving end of our dialogue with God. It is different than waiting, which is preparing for God’s coming and letting Him love you. It is different from meditation, which is pondering spiritual themes and asking God to illuminate them for you.
Listening is to seek to hear God speaking to You, to allow Him to apply Scripture to your life, to allow Him to give you an insight about life issues, and to seek to see what He has laid upon your heart
The person who doesn’t learn to listen is the person who doesn’t really have a clear direction in his life about what God wants him to do and doesn’t pursue aggressive things for God. When we listen, we will hear God’s words, hear His directions, and we can act in obedience to Him.

Worship as Prayer

Worship isn’t just corporate, it is personal. The choir is meant to lead the congregation in worship, not to perform for them. They direct us.  The choir was placed earlier in the loft, but usually stays behind the pulpit (primarily since the Reformation), in order for the larger congregation to see how to respond and, when the special is going on, to participate vicariously through the expressions and feelings of the singers.
Corporate worship is enhanced by personal worship through the week. Singing is a great part of that because sometimes we cannot express the depths of our souls any other way but through song.  That’s why God gave it to us.  Our souls include our minds, wills and emotions.  We can choose to worship God and use our minds to that effect, but sometimes even great truths cannot find their fullest expression in our persons until we express our devotion to our Lord through song.  Remember that the Psalms were simply Israel’s Hymnal.
Songs are many times praise. Remember that God inhabits the praise of His people, and songs of praise to the Lord often are a wonderful weapon against depression, spiritual defeat, fatigue,  and other Satanic devices. Keneniah led the singers of Israel in their assault on Jericho.  It was the singers and not the worldly weapons that caused the walls to fall.  Our weapons are not the same as the world, but are strong to the pulling down of strongholds (2 Corinthians 10).
Personal worship through song enhances our relationship with God. Praise and worship of God can take place through song and through prayer, so personal song can be a form of prayer as well. We can pray through music, when we cannot express our thoughts and emotions in another way.

Petitioning God in Prayer

Petitioning is an additional aspect of prayer that we can consider and practice. Praise and confession are foundational in prayer, but petitioning is also an important piece of praying to our God and Father.
What is petition? Asking God for one’s own behalf.  Technically, only yourself– not your family or anyone else falls into this category. It’s significant that petition falls after many other topics in prayer.
Asking is symbol of our desire, yet sometimes He won’t give that which we want or need until we ask for it. As James 4:2 says, “Ye have not because ye ask not.” God may still answer with a ‘no’ or ask us to wait or tell us ‘later,’ be He cannot answer if we don’t pray and we don’t ask.
Petition is not unbiblical or necessarily selfish. We do rely and depend on God and for that reason, we must ask Him for that which we need. As Jabez cries out in 1 Chronicles 9, who asked with sincerity for God to protect Him. We have but one Father and He must grant our provision. Petition is a confession of our helplessness, reliance, and desperation. When we ask with wrong motives, God does not grant our selfish requests (James 4:1-3).
It is spiritually healthy to take a need apart, piece by piece, during prayer.  Analyze it from every angle and express it as a petition. The more specific and complete a petition is, the more faith is generated when the prayer is answered. Specific prayers are also good because you know when they are answered (Matthew 7:7; Mark 11:23).  Don’t escape the spiritual tension by asking vaguely and then wondering if your prayers were answered.  Sometimes we ask vaguely because we’re so afraid they won’t be answered and that indicts someone– God or ourselves.
Asking God with faith and with pure motives for ourselves is not selfishness, but is trusting God with all of our needs and with our future.
Prayer begins with praising God for who He is and what He’s done. We must also confess and repent of sin, as unconfessed sin hinders our petitions for ourselves. Waiting for God and watching for His work are also vital to making our own petitions. We must look for where God is working in the world already before making a request for ourselves.

Waiting for God's Presence in Prayer

An oft-overlooked aspect of prayer is waiting. Without realizing the importance of waiting, much of prayer is useless because we never really enter God’s Holy presence.
In Job 40:4, he speaks of putting his hand over his mouth because he is unworthy to speak to God. This silence helps get our hearts in tune for prayer until we sense His full presence and fellowship.
Madame Guyon, a Catholic mystic writer in the late 17th century said that “There was a period when I chose, A time and place for prayer … But now I seek that constant prayer, In inward stillness known.” She silently waited in the presence of God, praying unceasingly, as Paul commands us to do.
Prayer needs an early significant spiritual silence. It renews our dependence on God and signifies our submission to Him.  Without that consolation of the Spirit and the subsequent renewal, our works become dead and “our message loses the ring which bespeaks its divine origin.”
Waiting places us in submission.  It helps free us from being the center of attention and having to get our own way.  It strips us of self-importance, and always having to be served or waited on…. It is the freedom to be second place; insignificant, and realize who liberating it is to be a nobody and not have to live up to others expectations. Allow waiting to create in you an inner subordination.  Paul called himself a slave of Christ.  We often expect our Master to serve us. Waiting breaks us of that.
Through waiting we see the real value of words/speaking/idle words and the idea of coming into the presence of a regent, a King. Waiting is a way to curb our desire for immediate gratification.
It’s when we say, like Thomas a’ Kempis, “As thou wilt, what thou wilt, when thou wilt,” as if we have nothing better to do than sit in the presence of the Lord.  It isn’t for God to prepare for our coming, but for us to prepare for His (Psalm 46:10).
Great mens’ vision, inner strength and genius is wrought in silence… Gaining it mystically from God himself.  It isn’t something taken from God, but given by Him.
Waiting is a discipline, we must become pupils.
We must be constantly renewed by Heavenly communion or our works become dead and powerless.  Have you ever felt like that?  Do they bespeak their divine origin?
“Amidst the multitude of works, the soul withers.”  Too much to do leads to powerless and non-eternal service/ministry.  Instead, those we minister to should say, “Didn’t we feel our hearts burn within us?”
Waiting consists of the silent surrender of my soul to God. It is not day dreaming, but concentrating on God’s presence and His approaching. It focuses our attention on His Heavenly voice until it’s as if He says, “OK, you’re ready.” Waiting isn’t a time of listening, trying to say anything, or getting answers. Waiting is simply waiting.
Waiting is silent love. We sit quietly in God’s presence, letting Him love you and minister to you, much like Paul describes the Holy Spirit in Romans 8. Wait until there is peace in your soul, until your spirit is submissive and no longer fluttering. Waiting is for the purpose of getting your heart in tune until you sense His full presence and fellowship.

Praise: The Foundation for Prayer

A few weeks ago, we talked about spiritual disciplines. An additional discipline I’d like to discuss is prayer.
Many Christians today have questions about prayer: How should I pray? When should I pray? What should I pray?
The best example of prayer in the Bible is given by Jesus in the New Testament. In the Sermon on the Mount, he preaches regarding prayer. He tells His followers not to seek righteousness through prayer, but that prayer should be between you and God only. He also gives His followers a format to follow for prayer. In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus gives us what is known as “The Lord’s Prayer. The beginning of the Lord’s Prayer, our model prayer, is praise for our Lord’s name.
“Hallowed,” comes from the Greek word Hagiazo, which means to revere, set apart, or sanctify God’s name.
It exemplifies vocal adoration
To adore comes from the idea of putting the hand to the mouth or kissing the hand, as a symbol of respect and submission. It recognizes the other’s authority and our servanthood.
That’s what we do when we praise God, we lift Him up and it serves to lower ourselves.
That’s good. Lots of people worry about self esteem.  When we realize that we are very small, then our esteem will grow because we can’t live up to the task of being as great as many psychologists want us to be.  Self-esteem is healthy, but is paradoxical.
Only praise puts God in rightful position at the beginning of our prayer time. Confession is fine to do first, but putting praise first, further exalts God and makes us more aware of the distance our sin makes us from God’s glory. Only when we see God for who He is can we see ourselves as we really are.  And only when we see ourselves as we really are, any confession is still less than it should be (Isaiah 6).
Praise makes our time of petition, listening, intercession, singing, etc. more rich, rewarding, and meaningful because we are more aware of God’s deservedness of such exaltation.
After this blog, I ask you to engage in a time of praising the Lord, exalting His name and recognizing who He is and all that He’s done.
Praise God for His name.
Praise God for His righteousness
Praise God for His infinite creation
Praise God for His Word
Because God is limitless, the potential for praise is also.  His person and personality is without bounds.
Praise is to examine and explore the person of God.  Uncovering His greatness.  Examination like an intense physical examination of a doctor.  It is to explore like one looking for Hidden Treasure.  Isn’t that what God is?