Day 31                       Matthew 20:32   

             “What do you want me to do for you?”

As I was reading this passage, I thought, “Jesus, you know what they want, why are you asking?” And then it occurred to me, that sometimes I think I pray like those two blind men. I think I might just ask for help or guidance in a real undefined way. What about you? Jesus forced them to define exactly what they wanted him to do for them. He made them verbalize it – to spell it out – not because he didn’t know – but because he wanted to make sure they know what they wanted.

What if Jesus asked you the same question? Are you able to spell out what miracles, and dreams God has put on your heart? Or would you be at a loss for words? I think many of us have no idea what we want God to do for us, then we wonder why it seems like God isn’t doing anything for us. Of course, if we can’t answer the question, then we are blind (spiritually) like the men in the scripture are physically. How can we get what we want when we don’t know what that is? Have we ever written down our prayers so we can remember them and circle them to continue in them? Pray through them?

Maybe this statement will help you, it did me. “God doesn’t answer vague prayers.” Does that convict you about your prayers? Are they vague so that there is no way to know if God is answering them? Is there a lack of faith they will be answered and so you’re hedging your bets? If you are, you’re not even giving God a chance to answer!

The more faith you have, the more specific your prayers will become. The more specific our prayers are, the more glory God will receive. Let’s not rob God of his glory because we second guess whether or not he actually answered them.

Well-developed faith results in well-defined prayers, and well-defined prayers result in well-defined answers to those prayers.

Jesus is still asking, “What do you want Me to do for you?”  and we are like those two men outside of Jericho who encountered Jesus, who need to answer the question. We need to identify our Jericho, our promise and keep circling it in prayer. What is that Jericho? What miracle are you marching around? What dream does your life revolve around? That Jericho could be spelled in many different ways. If a loved one is ill with cancer, it’s spelled healing. If your best friend is far from God, it’s spelled salvation. If your family is falling apart, it’s spelled reconciliation. If you have a dream beyond your finances, it’s spelled provision. Whatever it is, YOU have to spell it.

What is your Jericho? If you can’t answer this question, get into God’s presence and get an answer! God has an answer for you. Amen.

Day 32                       Revelation 12:11         

            “…and by the word of their testimony…”

Testimonies are important. Easter morning I have planned on having testimonies for the early morning service. Will you be there to share your testimony? I hope so. I know I have seen the risen Lord in these 40 days, well already in these 32 days! I hope you have as well.

Has God answered any of your prayers? No matter how small? If he has, then that needs to be shared. It’s a stewardship issue! If we don’t turn the answer to prayer into praise, it may very well turn into pride. Giving testimony is the way we give God all of the glory. But that isn’t the only reason. We need to share our testimony because others are tempted to believe God isn’t working. Jesus triumphed over the grave by his shed blood on Calvary’s cross. He broke the curse of sin so we can break the cycle of sin. The way we seal the victory is “by the word of our testimony.” Our testimonies don’t just remind us that the victory has already been won; they also remind the enemy that he has already been defeated!

When a testimony of healing is shared, those who hear it get an infusion of faith to believe God for healing in their own lives. Those testimonies double as prophecies. When we share a testimony, we are loaning our faith to others. When we listen to a testimony, we are borrowing faith from others. Either way, the church is edified, and most importantly, God is glorified.

What’s your story? Where have you seen the risen Christ in your life? In these 40 days?

Day 33                    Exodus 17:12  

           “Aaron and Hur held his hands up
– one on one side, one on the other.”

What great support. Do you ever feel like a lone ranger? There are certainly times that I do. There is a much better way. It’s good to pray on your own but it’s really much better to pray with some like-minded friends. If we could come together to join in prayer, just how much more powerful could our prayers be, and how much more covering would we each have.

If we are going to intercede for others, we had better be sure we have others interceding for us. If we are in an intense time of prayer and fasting, we are really going to need to be covered in prayer. When we are in prayer, we are in a fight with the enemy and the enemy fights back. We have a target on our back and those evil forces will do whatever they can to stop us from achieving the goal. But with a prayer covering and by the blood of Jesus, we will have victory. That’s not to say it will be easy. It most likely will not. What is easy in pray hard? It’s hard!

Intercession is spiritual warfare. There will be times when our hearts are breaking because of our prayer burdens. There will be seasons that feel like labor pains when the Holy Spirit is birthing something new in us. There will be times when there are assaults on us personally, our family, or business, or church when we need to stay on our knees and pray through it. It can be scary and lonely but be encouraged, that’s usually when God is about to breakthrough. It means you’re probably doing something right. It means God is getting ready to fight for you like he did the Israelites in the passage in Exodus. A battle between the Israelites and Amalekites where Moses holds up his arms and they are gaining ground. If his arms lower they lose ground. So Aaron and Hur hold his arms up until the battle is won.

Think of our prayer that way. The victory is won with knees bent in prayer and hands raised in worship to God. The enemy cannot be defeated any other way. No battle has been won apart from prayer and praise. And when we lack the strength, will, ability, or faith to continue to hold our hands up and pray for ourselves; that’s when we need that prayer partner or circle to hold ours up.

I hope you will pray for me. I am happy to pray for you. I am at the church every Sunday at 8:00 am and begin my prayer time. It lasts about 20 minutes. If you could join me where you are I would be so blessed. Let me know at pastor@winchesterfaith.org that you are joining me and any concerns for me to pray about. Pray for the worship here at Faith that morning and the witness expressed throughout. Hear is our Breakthrough Prayer:

Holy Spirit, breakthrough my life and our church, unleashing your vision. Make visible the needs of those around us and empower us to share God’s love through our service. Amen.

Day 34               2 Kings 19:30 KJV      

       “And the remnant shall yet again take root
downward, and bear fruit upward.”

We began these 40 days with 2 Chronicles 7:14 “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” As a reminder that is where the time 7:14 for prayer comes from.

In this time of prayer I have really begun to feel like a remnant. I’ve only heard from a few that they are praying every day along with me. The church’s size is small and with what is going on with the “United Methodist Church” I’m feeling more and more it seems like part of the remnant so this passage it seems is for me today and I hope for you as well. God is saying there is hope!

Every generation it seems needs to tear down its idols and rebuild its temples. Every generation needs to repent of its sin and rediscover the ancient truths, and all it takes is a remnant. It seems it’s not a question of if, but a question of when. If we will be determined to pray as long as it takes, revival will come. As Charles Finney put it, “God is one pent-up revival.”

In the 1950’s, Argentina was all but spiritually dead. At the time there were only 600 spirit filled Christians in the entire country but revival came from a remnant of just 50 students at the Argentine Bible Institute who developed an intense prayer burden for the nation. The missionary, Dr. Miller said he had never seen people weep or pray so hard or so long. Day after day, they wept and prayed. After hours of intercession, students would literally be standing in their own puddle of tears.

On the 50th day of around-the-clock intercession, there was a prophetic word. “Weep no more, for the Lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed over the prince of Argentina.” 18 months later, hundreds of thousands of Argentines were flocking to crusades at soccer stadiums seating 180,000 people, weren’t large enough to handle the crowds.

Dr. Miller said this: “If God can get enough people in an area to reject the ruler-ship and dominion of satin, if enough of His people will reject Satan’s dominion in the right way – with humility, with brokenness, and in repentant intercession – then God will slap an eviction notice on the doorway of the ruling demonic power of that area. And when He does, then there is a light and glory that begins to come.”

Can we be part of that here? I hope and pray it is so.

Day 35                    Zechariah 4:10   

         “Do not despise these small beginnings.”

The Jewish remnant returning to Israel really knew small beginnings. They wanted to rebuild the temple but all they got to do at this point was measure. So God encourages them through Zechariah with these words, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” So God is rejoicing in the measuring tape (that plumb line) beginning to be used. And we think, “THAT’s IT?” But God is already rejoicing, like a parent rejoicing over a baby’s first step. Those tiny steps become giant leaps in God’s kingdom. If we do the little things, God will do the big things. We can’t worry about what we can’t do; we have to simply do what we can.

So prayer is our “plumb line”, our measuring tape. No one is greater than their prayer life. Our potential is directly proportional to our prayer life. It is the single greatest indicator for how our life will go as a Christian. But it’s not something to be brag about, it’s more about being humble. Maybe call it bold humility or humble boldness. If we try to exalt ourselves, God will find a way to humble us. But if we humble ourselves, God will find a way to exalt us. If we hit our knees in humble prayer God will extend His mighty hand on our behalf.

In 1857, Jeremiah Lanphier was called to begin a daily midday prayer meeting for businesspeople in New York City. The first meeting was held in the upper room of the Dutch Reformed Church in Manhattan with only 6 people. The next week there were 14 and then 23. Eventually they expanded to the sanctuary and then outgrew the church. The meetings multiplied across the city until at the peak, it is estimated that nearly 10,000 people were converted every week in New York City, roughly 1% of the population then. So think about those first 6 people. Do you think they were discouraged after that first week? Do you think they had any idea they were starting something that would impact hundreds of thousands of lives? I would bet not. And it wasn’t their job anyway.

It’s not our job either. But if we pray like the members of the early church did, Pentecost can happen anywhere! Our prayers have the potential to write and rewrite history. Amen.

Day 36                  Matthew 6:20              

“Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.”

Have you wondered what it means to “Store up treasures in heaven?” I don’t know about you, but for me it’s always seemed a little bit beyond my grasp. I guess I could understand it but never really could wrap my head fully around it. That is until I heard about a man named Stanley Tam. Stanly would be 103 this year. I don’t know if he is still living but he has made quite a treasure for himself in heaven.

Stanley started a business with $32 in capital and faith in God in 1936. By 1940 things were looking up and he turned over 51% of the business over to God. In 1955 he had picked up much business in plastics and the United States Plastic Corporation was born. That same year while making a speech at a church he heard God call him to turn over the rest of the company and that same year he did and became a salaried employee. Since that day he has given away more than $120 million. You may have seen his building just off I-75 statically placed so all could see the side of the building where it says in large letters, “Christ is the Answer.”

This man gave 100%. Amazing! And he reminds us that “You can’t out give God!”

We are no different than anyone else in history. We have the same God that all those who have gone before us had. The same God who did miracles for David, Solomon, Moses and anyone else you read about in the Scriptures. If God did it for them, he can do it for us. Nothing has changed. God wants to renew His deeds today. But we need to PRAY the price. Stanley Tam had childlike faith even into his old age. That’s refreshing. He would simply take God at his word. When we take God at his word, God stands by his word.

The greatest legacy we can leave is a complete surrender of our lives to the lordship of Jesus Christ. If we don’t hold out, God will take care of us! “No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.” Every prayer we pray, every gift we give, every sacrifice we make, and every step of faith we take is an inheritance left to the next generation. And our prayers live on, long after we die. Amen.

Day 37                   Matthew 18:18  

                   “Whatever you bind on earth

                        will be bound in heaven.”

Have you ever thought of your prayers as binding? The word “bind” has a legal connotation, meaning “to place a contract on something.” This is what happens when we pray in the will of God. Our prayers place a contract in the spiritual realm. I have to wonder, did something like that happen some seven years ago when the old lumber yard was still there and a few of us wandered through it to see if it could be made into a place of ministry. I had a sense it could before we ever went in. I had a powerful sense it could as we toured the place, a call from God, if you will but others could see it or sense it. I prayed they could or would but it didn’t happen and then it was bought and turned into a car factory. Well now it’s up for sale again.

I was in prayer again this morning and this prayer scripture came up as I was sitting there with Tom and asked him his thoughts, not telling him about 7 years ago. He brought up the empty building there for sale and how he dreamed that it could be used as a place of ministry between the churches. Coincidence? I doubt it.

What comes into your mind when you think about God? A.W. Tozer wrote, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” So? Do you imagine Jesus with a lamb around his neck? Do you imagine Jesus hanging on the cross? Or do you see Jesus seated on the throne, and earth as his footstool? All authority is his. It matters what you think. Jesus is a good shepherd who goes for the one lost sheep and he did die on that horrible cross showing us the most beautiful picture of what true love is, but we don’t worship a God who is hanging on a cross. We worship a God who is high and lifted up, who has all authority and does what he promises.

Jesus also said, “If two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by my Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” The concept of the prayer circles refers to specific things we are circling in prayer. But when two or three agree in prayer, they are forming a prayer circle around a prayer circle. It doesn’t just add it multiplies.

There are more than 3000 promises in Scripture, and Paul says they are all “’yes’ in Christ.” Our most powerful prayers are chained to those promises. Don’t just pray words, pray the WORD of God because his WORD doesn’t return empty. That’s why the Israelites wore scripture on their bodies – as reminders.

I don’t know where this prayer will go. I only know God knows and will put the right people in the right places at the right time. Pray on! Circle away!

Day 38                    Habakkuk 2:1 NLT   

                  “I will climb up to my watchtower

                       and stand at my guardpost.”

Where is your watchtower? You know, that special place where you can see out over the spiritual things you pray over? Where might that be? For me over these 40 days it’s been in a newly formed prayer space in Southeast corner of the sanctuary of Faith UM Church. It has become my watchtower, a sacred place of prayer. I think it may be starting to become that for others as well since we have been using it every week in worship as well. I wish we had a high space, say on a roof where I could go and look over the city and pray but we don’t so I do it in my mind’s eye.

Do you ever go back to places where God has spoken or clearly moved in your life or answered your prayers? Geography and spirituality are not unrelated. That’s why the Israelites built memorials in places of spiritual significance. They could return to those places during special seasons to renew their covenants with God.

Do you think Elijah ever went back to the mountain where God answered his prayers and defeated 450 prophets of Baal in a sudden-death duel, or David where he killed Goliath, or Abraham to the thicket where the ram was provided, maybe Peter to the spot on the Sea of Galilee where he walked on water, or Paul where he was knocked from his high horse, or Zacchaeus to watch his grandchildren play in the tree Jesus asked him to come down from? I have to believe they did. What about yours?

Going back to places of spiritual significance should be part of our spiritual practice. I occasionally go back to my home church. I drive past my real old church (now a carpet store) and remember my old Sunday school teacher, the way I felt safe in the old sanctuary with family, and how I felt close to God. The thoughts renew my faith.

For that reason and a thousand others, where we pray is not insignificant. The Israelites pitched a tent of meeting outside the camp for a reason. Jesus prayed on mountains, by water, and in gardens for a reason. We need to find a place where we are free from distraction, where we get good reception, where we can focus, and where our faith is strong. Climb your watchtower and stand at your guardpost! Amen.

Day 39                        Exodus 3:5  

            “Take off your sandals, for the place

          where you are standing is holy ground.”

Here is an amazing prayer story. Years ago, author Ken Gaub and his family were traveling on I-75 near Dayton, OH when they decided to stop to eat. Ken’s wife and children went right into the restaurant but Ken wanted to stretch his legs a bit so took a short walk. As he walked past a nearby gas station, he heard a pay phone ringing. It kept ringing, and Ken thought it might be some sort of emergency, so he answered it. He heard the voice of the operator say, “Long distance for Ken Gaub.”

Ken almost passed out. He said, “You’ve got to be kidding me. I was just walking in the middle of nowhere and heard this phone ringing.” The confused operator said, “Is Ken Gaub there?” After making sure there weren’t any candid cameras, he said, “This is Ken Gaub.”

The voice on the other side of the line said, “Mr. Gaub, my name is Millie. I’m from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. You don’t know me, but I need your help.” She went on to explain that she had just written a suicide note but had decided to give prayer one more try. She said, “God, I don’t really want to do this.” And as she prayed, she remembered seeing him on television. She thought to herself, “If I could just talk with him, he could help me.”  But this was pre-Google, making it extremely difficult to track him down. As she prayed, some numbers popped into her head, and she wrote them on a piece of paper. She couldn’t help but think, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if God were giving me Ken’s number?” Then Millie said, “I decided to try calling the number, and I couldn’t believe it when the operator said it was you.”

Millie asked Ken, “Are you in your office?” When Ken said no, Millie sounded surprised. She said, “There where are you?” Ken said, “You made the call. Don’t you know?” She said, “I don’t even know what area I’m calling, I just dialed the number on a piece of paper.” Ken said, “You won’t believe this, I’m in a phone booth in Dayton, Ohio.” Millie replied, “What are you doing there?” Ken said, “Answering a pay phone!”

Ken concluded this from the call:

“I walked away from that phone booth with an electrifying sense of our heavenly Father’s concern for each of His children. What were the astronomical odds of this happening? With all the millions of phones and innumerable combinations of numbers, only an all-knowing God could have caused that woman to dial that number in that phone booth at that moment in time.”

God cares about every detail of your life. Have you had moments in your life where you have been able to recognize that? In those moments we need to take off our shoes, because we know we are standing on holy ground.

There are two time in scripture that God makes the command, “take off your sandals, for you are standing on holy ground.” Once with Moses when he sees the burning bush and once for Joshua before they circle the city of Jericho. God didn’t say those words when they were in the Promised Land. Moses was on the back side of the desert. It was where he was standing. Don’t wait until you get to the Promised Land to worship God. We need to worship God all along the way! This is holy ground. This is a holy moment. Right here. Right now.

Take off your sandals!

Day 40          Luke 11:1  “Lord, teach us to pray.”

Day 40 and maybe it seems like we should have started here but still, even after 40 days when I think about prayer, it often makes me have feelings of guilt. Simply because I don’t do it enough, or long enough, or because I feel inept when I don’t know what to say. But really, who doesn’t at some time have those feelings. Maybe you do a lot of the time. I sure did. But instead of feelings of guilt, the thought of prayer should induce unbridled excitement because nothing is more potent than kneeling before God Almighty. To be in his presence is incredible. Have you had that feeling?

When I have those feelings of being inept, I think about the disciples and how they must have felt being in the presence of Jesus. Just think about hearing Jesus pray! I mean, think about it. Do you suppose that might be why they asked him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” Jesus’ prayers had to be soooo different from any they had ever heard before that they must have felt like they had never really prayed before.

Notice the disciples didn’t ask how to preach, or how to lead. They didn’t ask how to disciple or anything else, as noble as all those are. No, they had one request: “Lord, teach us to pray.”

When we change the way we pray, everything changes: the way we work, the way we parent, the way we lead, the way we prioritize, the way we strategize, the way we think, the way we feel and the way we speak. Prayer changes everything from the inside out. No matter what we do, prayer is a critical part of the creative process. Don’t just brainstorm, praystorm. Turn your work room, your ____room into a prayer room!

Prayer is the difference between appointments and divine appointments: the difference between good ideas and God-ideas: the difference between the favor of God and the luck of the draw: the difference between possible and impossible: and the difference between the best we can do the best God can do.

“Lord, teach us to pray.” Amen!