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I arose one morning to my early prayer time with crowds of questions and requests on my mind for the Lord. After greeting Him with a few perfunctory praises and thanksgivings (although I was sincere, I rushed through them in order to get to the items on my agenda), I began to unleash my arsenal upon God, increasingly frustrated because as I prayed I could not discern any particular leading in regard to my queries nor even much encouragement for simply persevering.

I hate to admit that I left that time more or less annoyed with the Lord, feeling bereft of wisdom and empowerment that I felt I needed to face the issues that I had presented Him.

After breakfast I completed a few tasks that required attention, but then hastened back to some more time with God in prayer and His Word so I could renew my imploring. I was identifying with Habakkuk a little bit as I felt sorry for myself.

“O LORD, how long shall I cry for help, and You will not hear? Or cry to You ‘Violence!’ and You will not save?” (Habakkuk 1:2 ESV).

Far more important than my questions are the questions that God Himself plies to me.

Far more important than my questions are the questions that God Himself plies to me.

But as I finally began to settle down and be quiet in that time, letting the noisy and clamorous thoughts fade away, I was struck by the realization that far more important than my questions are the questions that God Himself plies to me. Instances from the Bible in which the Lord asked questions of His child came to me and reminded me that my worrying and struggling (evidenced in my ongoing pleas to God to “work in this situation” and “move in that situation”) were the discordant notes of a fellowship with God that still needed much fine tuning.

“Son of man, can these bones live?” (from Ezekiel 37:3); “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” (from Isaiah 6:8); “What are you doing here?” (from 1 Kings 19:8); “What is that in your hand?” (from Exodus 3:2); “Is anything too hard for the LORD?” (from Genesis 18:14); “Where is your brother?” (from Genesis 4:9); and “Where are you?” (from Genesis 3:9). These and countless other passages chronicle the Holy One’s engagement of someone nearly lost in his or her circumstances and/or guilt, working to overcome each one’s near-sighted sensibilities so that he or she could walk in harmony with His love and will.

Thus I am reminded that the point of my quiet time with Him in prayer and mediation of His Word is not so much about struggling with Him in the tempests of doubt that are my questions and anxieties, but is rather about listening heartily to Him so that He can shape and direct my will according to His own.

“Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” (from John 6:5); “Does this offend you?” (from John 6:61); “You do not want to leave too, do you?” (from John 6:67); “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve?” (from John 6:70); and “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” (from John 8:10) are all questions that the Lord Jesus asked of those whose lives He had drawn into relationship with Himself. And in each case, the question was asked, not because Jesus did not know the answer, but to redirect the spiritual eyes of His child.

The better thing to do then in our prayer time is to discard our habit of volleying question after question and request after request to the Lord. Petitions and intercessions have their place, but let them come after we have given God His time, and the opportunity of speaking first to us. As we learn to listen for His voice we will discover that many of our own questions will be answered, or perhaps that they were non-issues to begin with.

“Why are you worried, my child?” He may say to one. “What need have I revealed to you do I now wish to answer through you?” He may say to another. “I have been faithful to death for you; will you now be faithful to Me in front of your friends?” He might ask of another. What question might He be asking of you even now in your life? Is He asking something of you? Sometimes He awaits a direct response of obedience from us.

But the questions that God asks are sometimes unanswerable (at least by us – as attested to in many that He asked Job), but they still have a point and a valuable treasure within them if we will patiently trust the One Who asked them. Rest assured: what we do not know, He knows; what we cannot see, He sees; where we are weak and afraid, His strength is more than enough to sustain us and grant us victory in all that He has asked of us.

Seek now to turn a listening ear to God and learn the joy of trusting and obeying Him! Let Him speak and lead you through what would otherwise be an overpowering jungle out there! Let your strength be renewed by the confidence that God is Master of all creation and that His agenda is to draw you deeply into His love!

“By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. Whoever says ‘I know Him’ but does not keep His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps His word, in him truly the love of God is perfected” (1 John 2:3-5a ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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There is a plethora of “churchy” words that, when invoked, sounds like little more than meaningless jargon in the ears of most people outside of the church. On the other hand, even inside the great family of God there are some expressions that have become so muddled under layers of generational over-familiarity that the original convictions or spiritual insights that they represented have been lost in antiquity.

The word “revival” may be as good an example of this as any other word of which I can think. Even in areas or among populations where the word is widely used, its real significance is generally entirely overlooked. Most of the time, when the word “revival” comes up, we refer to a set of meetings (usually running about a week and often featuring various singing groups and certainly fiery speakers). And if we as Christians tend to miss the point of the word, “revival”, it should come as no surprise that the world too can have some funny ideas about what we mean when we throw up our banners and advertisements promoting them.

The word “revival” itself simply refers to the restoration of life. As Christians we use the word to refer to God’s restoring His people to an exciting and satisfying relationship with Himself after they had repented from falling away from Him, having been either distracted or enamored by other things.

“Revival” therefore does not refer to a meeting. Contrary to some opinions, it does not even refer to a large number of people receiving the Lord Jesus as their Savior and becoming Christians. Such a response can be a fruit of revival but is not revival itself. After all, how can one “re-vive” something (that is to say “to bring to life again”) when that something was only just then receiving life for the very first time?

Today, as we look across the spiritual and moral wasteland that besets our vision, we might wonder if the church has a diminishing capacity to make a difference in the world. If so, it is because we need revival. We are no longer living with the power of Christ Who, in His earthly ministry, left people knowing that somehow life would never be the same for them because they had been confronted with the presence of God.

“When Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at His teaching, for He was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:28-29 ESV).

Authority? Yes… He did not instruct them as we often do in the presumption of our own intellect and limited abilities. He came sanctioned by the Father to bring the message of God’s love and the glory of His manifest (unveiled) presence. He came in power and that power, produced in His life by both the presence of the Holy Spirit within Him and the approval of the Father upon Him, radically engaged people with the spiritual facts of life: 1) that there is a Holy God in charge of the universe, 2) that humanity is woefully and eternally separated from Him by the reality of sin (selfish willfulness in our own lives), and 3) that God has mercifully provided Himself as the object of justice in the form of His Son that we might receive forgiveness and restoration with Him provided we truly turn to Him in faith.

And it is still the Father’s will that such power continue to engage the world today. Access to that power has been entrusted to God’s people “to preach good news to the poor… to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, to recover sight for the blind, to release the oppressed and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (from Luke 4:18-19 and Isaiah 61:1-2).

Consequently, as we walk humbly with Him through life, cultivating our relationship with Him, He Himself dwells within us, assaulting bastions of hatred and despair with love and hope. In reverse, if we do not walk with Him, we lag behind His activity in the world, we become disconnected from the lifeline of His love and our hope becomes eclipsed by cares from the world. When God is not first place in our lives, the whole world suffers for it.

But thankfully, He has promised that, “If My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV).

Perhaps we as the church of today are losing our ability to powerfully and effectually conquer the world with love and faith because we’re allowing our lifeline (relationship with Him) to become detached. Perhaps we’re ceasing to be a living “body” of believers and are little more than dry and barren structures upon which spiritual flesh once hung. Maybe we’re dangerously close to being a great mass of “dried up old bones”.

“If My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” - 2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV

“If My people who are called by My name humble themselves, and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” – 2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV

That is what revival is. It is God gracefully bringing us back to spiritual life when we’ve finally despaired of all the deadness that the “alternatives” to faith in Christ offer us. Once we’ve repented of our own waywardness and have returned whole-heartedly to Him, we allow Him to take His rightful place in the throne of our hearts. As Lord of our lives, He brings healing, hope and fulfillment once again to not only His children but to the rest of the world, too.

“Revive us again; fill each heart with Thy love. May each soul be rekindled with fire from above. Hallelujah! Thine the glory. Hallelujah! Amen. Hallelujah! Thine the glory. Revive us again (“We Praise Thee, O God” by William P. Mackay, 1839-1885).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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skepticWhile our response to a another’s need for Christ should be the bold, but loving sharing of the Truth of Jesus, the solution to resistance is not a more persuasive argument, but the Holy Spirit’s opening of the person’s mind and the softening of his or her heart.

So pray accordingly… even as you bear witness to Christ, serving in His name and telling of His grace.

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Let’s face it. Spiritual things are hard to discuss with everyday words. In fact, they’re not only hard to talk about, they’re hard to think about! There are just some things about Faith and the Kingdom of God that make us sprain our brain muscles when we really try to understand them.

As a result of our difficulty in understanding such things, there is often a temptation for us to assume that because the spiritual realm is so “spiritual”, it is therefore unapproachable – that it is too mysterious for us to understand and consequently impossible for us to experience meaningfully.

For example, we sometimes feel too intimidated to make prayer a practical priority in our lives or we dress it up with so much formality that it ceases to be genuine prayer.

On the other hand, there is also a temptation to sometimes take prayer too much for granted and then approach it tritely (if we approach it at all). Prayer may seem to us either lacking in any real benefit or is a religious duty, a strict discipline with which we afflict ourselves.

But real prayer is neither of these things. First and foremost, prayer is the activity of a life which dwells in the presence of God. It is quite literally, “going into His presence” though we still stand here on this solid earth in the full light of the material world.

How sad then if we neglect that for which we were created! Remember that Jesus died so that your sin may be forgiven and removed from you so that you may stand in God’s presence without guilt or shame.

Prayer is simple child-like dependence and devotion of one who implicitly trusts in God

Prayer is simple child-like dependence and devotion of one who implicitly trusts in God

If you never trouble with going into His presence, then you cannot “come to know God”. If you are not “coming to know God” then you are not receiving eternal life (John 17:3). If you are not availing yourself of eternal life, why did Jesus then die?

If we do not pray, we trivialize the purpose of His suffering and death. We also surrender the abundance of joys and comforts that His presence affords us.

Prayer is a stance and attitude that we adopt signifying our reliance upon His love and awesome power rather than the foolish alternatives given by the world. It further declares that we have the strength and good will of Almighty God sustaining us though the weight of the world oppresses us.

Prayer is simple child-like dependence and devotion of one who implicitly trusts in God. It is a love song sent up from a heart overflowing with adoration and passion for its Creator. It is the soul-wrenching lament of one trapped in the mire of loneliness and pain. Prayer is the crying out of one life for the deliverance of another.

Prayer is talking with God but is also sitting silently before Him.

Prayer is the giving of thanks and praise to the Most High but is also the receiving of the blessings of His presence, joy and peace.

To not pray is to be completely and utterly alone though surrounded by a sea of people. But to really pray is to be with God as we walk along through life.

To not pray is to languish in failure and futility however successful the World tells us we are. But to really pray is to be about our highest calling of all.

Let us be careful then to be a people who pray.

“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ…” (Colossians 4:2-4 ESV).

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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Of the many practical privileges that we’ve been given as children of God, prayer is the most profound and yet most simple. It doesn’t take any great physical strength, geographic location, or material asset to avail oneself of prayer. Nor is the activity of prayer reserved for only a special “caste” or class of persons while others are shut out, dependent on others to do their interceding and supplicating for them.

Having said all that, it is good to periodically clear the air on the purpose of prayer. Prayer fundamentally has only one essential activity, that of personally approaching the throne of the Most High. Prayer also has merely one essential qualifier: the one who approaches the throne can only do so through faith in Jesus Christ’s work of atonement (His substitutionary death and His victorious resurrection from the dead).

After all, in our own fallen human nature not one of us can approach the holiness of God without judgment befalling us since a perfectly righteous judge MUST judge sin – even such sins as we might label as “inconsequential”. It is only when we have surrendered ourselves to His forgiveness that we can come to Him unafraid as He completes His work of cleansing by counting to us the righteousness that comes from Christ Jesus’ perfect life and blameless death.

Make no mistake about it. Jesus’ payment of our sins and victory over the power of death pave the way for prayer to become what God has intended it to be from before the beginning of time. Prayer is less about coming to God because you want Him to answer your prayers (whether for healing, success, comfort, or help) than it is about your coming to “meet with” Him. Supplication and even intercession for others are the secondary purposes of prayer, while fellowship between you and your Creator are its ultimate rewards.

Because of the amazing truth of this and the incredible wonder of it, He taught us in Matthew 5:9 to begin our prayers with “Our Father….” How He loves us! How He longs to catch us up into His loving embrace! Heed the secret language of close intimacy between the Father and His Son and how He offers it also to us. “Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. Whoever has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him…. If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:19b-21, 23 ESV).

Prayer must find its roots in the confidence and loving trust that only real fellowship between you and God can provide.

Prayer must find its roots in the confidence and loving trust that only real fellowship between you and God can provide.

Does this really mean that He will “show Himself to us?” Did He really mean that He Himself, accompanied by “our Father”, “will come and make themselves at home with us?” Either He means this, or it is nothing more than sentimentality. Jesus was never interested in simply being sentimental however. He could never do anything less than speak the truth for He Himself was truth then and is still truth today (see John 14:6). He said these things to those who have given their hearts to Him so that they may understand the degree to which He treasures fellowship with them.

It is right and good to come to Him with your needs ready to be lifted up to Him. It is good and even great to approach His throne with the hurts and burdens of others on your heart, offering them up to Him as you intercede. But always remember that prayer must find its roots in the confidence and loving trust that only real fellowship between you and Him can provide. It may be that He chooses to not answer your requests as you have uttered them so that the blessings for which you hunger do not eclipse the One who sends the blessings. Seek to touch His face before you try to move His hand. The heart of a father or mother is moved most deeply by the child who wants more than anything to just sit on his or her lap. So come to the Father’s throne! Come seeking His help! But come mostly because you want to know Him better.

“We… proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us – that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:2b-3 ESV).

 

Copyright © Thom Mollohan

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