DAY 49 - Always Pray, Never Give Up

Am I remaining persistent in my prayer requests or have I given up?

1  Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2  He said: "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. 3  And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.' 4  "For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, 'Even though I don't fear God or care about men, 5  yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!'" 6  And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7  And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8  I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"

INSIGHT:  When you make a request of God, do not stop praying until He answers or redirects you, according to His will.  We must remember that “quickly” (v. 8) is much different to Jesus than it is us.  We see everything through the lens of about 80 to 100 years, whereas He sees things through eternity.  Many Christians will only pray a few times before they give up and wonder why God didn’t answer their prayer.  The timing of our answered prayers is up to God—our part is to keep praying in faith, even if it takes months, years, or the end of our life for God to answer.  Notice Jesus asks, if He will find faith on earth when He comes back?  This not only shows that many will depart from the faith (1 Tim 4:1), but also that is when most of us will see the justice we so long for.  Often, the best blessings are the ones we have to wait the longest for.

My mother was worth waiting for!  Within a few months of me moving back in with my parents at the age of 37, things got really ugly.  After the bottom of my life fell out, I began taking my faith in Christ very seriously.  My mother and I were baptized on the same day, in the same small town church, in 1989.  We went to church three times because my mom concluded she already got what we came for (eternal life insurance).  Her spiritual journey moved toward a mix of 12 step and codependent groups, where God the Father is relegated to being a “Higher Power” and where Jesus just needs to be left in the car.  In her later years, church had become a pleasant social experience for her, but there was no living faith in God whatsoever.  Her faith was in her own ability to control her life and circumstances.   When I showed up with actual living faith in Christ, radically trusting Him for everything, my mother began persecuting me relentlessly.  We had windows of peace, but for 3.5 years she pretty much tormented me, saying I was ignorant, lazy, deceived, intolerant and even mentally ill.  I loved her, but I did not like her at all, and I dreaded the day I would remarry and have to introduce my future wife to her.  Once, I even cried out in anguish, “God, how can you allow the woman you used to get me on the planet to treat me like this?”

I would go into the woods and pray for her and often it was very hard to believe she would ever change.  I begged God to open her eyes and change her and He would say, “Humble yourself before her.”  That was very difficult to do at first, but by God’s grace I was able to do it more and more where even my mom would say something about it.

Then came the amazing day that my mother would sit down on camera, in tears, and testify that she now had the same mental illness (faith) that I had.  God did the impossible and answered my persistent prayers, but He delayed answering until He finished using her as a tool in His hands to further shape and humble me.  Today, I have the Mother I always wanted.  I not only love her, but now I really like her, and I will be so proud to introduce my future wife to her.  She will be an outstanding Mother-in-law.

 

DAY 48 - Finding Solitude with the Father

Am I spending regular quiet time in solitude with God?

31  Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest." 32  So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.

INSIGHT:  We can see that Jesus places a priority on rest and quiet time with Him, even over being able to help more people.  Jesus regularly got away from the ministry work, to pray and spend time in solitude with His Father.  Are you?  This is what people desperately need today, not more church activities or sermons, connection groups, or service projects, but a returning to our first love through simple alone time spent with Him!  My time alone with God is the most important time in my life.  I protect it diligently from distraction.  I would not have made it through my valley of the shadow of death without it.  I really found God through hours of morning daily Bible study, and walking for four years in the woods in prayer.  I enter the trailhead saying, “I’m here Daddy…please meet me here.” I have grown way more in the Lord, outside the institution of the church than I ever did inside of it.  I have had unforgettable mountain top experiences with Him.  One time, His presence was so strong that I had to hold myself up with my hands on my knees.  There have been a few other times when I thought the heavens would break open and an angel, or the Lord himself, might show up on the trail.  However, most of the time, it’s nothing spectacular, but just sweet fellowship with the Spirit.  Sometimes, I’ve even left feeling disappointed, and like He was distant, but I continued in faith, not by feeling.  I was delighted when I read this quote from the great Reformer Jonathan Edwards, knowing I wasn’t the only one who went to the woods to spend time with God.
I spent most of my time in thinking of divine things, year after year; often walking alone in the woods, and solitary places, for meditation, soliloquy, and prayer, and converse with God.

How would you feel if your spouse, or boyfriend/girlfriend, didn’t want to spend alone time with you, but instead they always needed to have other people around?  That would make me feel sad and unimportant in the relationship.  How must God feel when one of His children admitted to me, “Michael, God alone, is just not enough for me right now…I need someone else.”

Or, how does he feel when He never gets to spend just one on one time with you?  Please start doing this; find a special place or room.  No matter how weird it may feel at first, this will change your life and walk with Christ.  Step into it in faith and put a regular time and place on your schedule to do nothing but go spend time alone with Him.  This is not Bible study time, but you can take your favorite verses or promises if it helps you.  Just go show up, and He will be found by you if you are diligent (Deu 4:29, Ps 119:58 Jer 29:13).  Go in faith my friend…yes, I tell you, go and keep going until you find Him.  Go find Him and when you find Him, never let go!

DAY 47 - The Truth About Binding Satan and Demons

Am I agreeing with others in faith and according to God’s will, in prayer?

18  "I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.  19  "Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. 20  For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them."

INSIGHT:  The context here (v. 18), is that of sin, forgiveness, and church discipline, and means that if the Church is walking in the regulations of Christ, whatever decisions they make (binding or loosing as in an agreement), with regard to discipline, He will honor in heaven.  This is similar to what He tells the disciples in John 20:23.  See also use of bind in (Heb 2:2-3).  Also, we see heaven blesses us (v.19), when we seek group agreement and accountability in prayer requests.  This is pretty obvious, so I wish to focus on the misinterpretation of this passage that is prevalent among many.

Many take this verse out of context and think they can bind and loose Satan and his demons.  I used to believe this too, but I now know the truth.  Satan (the strong man) has already been bound in the life of believers, by Jesus Christ (Mark 3:27).  Satan’s house is the world because all dominion was given to him (Luke 4:6), and Jesus entered “the strong man’s house” and tied him up and is robbing his possessions (saving sinners by His Spirit).  Our greatest weapon is firm faith, and purity of heart, not speaking words against his “kingdom” (Jd 1:9).  

I have heard many people say, “I bind you Satan and your demons.”  If anyone could truly bind Satan, then we could have all gone home by now.  Do you get this? If you could bind Satan’s demons, then why is there so much trouble in the lives of those who claim to be binding Him?  Often, they have more rotten fruit in their lives, and in the lives of those they are “binding” on behalf of, than you can imagine.  It’s as if it has the reverse effect.

Where in the Bible does it tell us to bind demons or Satan?  It tells us to cast them out of someone’s body, but casting out is not binding.  Do we see Paul saying, “I bind you Satan to silence in this church…I bind you demons to the pit!”  Does Paul say in 2 Cor 12:8 that he tried binding Satan three times, or asking the Lord to remove the tormentor?  Why didn’t Paul just bind the devil in these instances (Gal 4:13, 1 Thes 2:18, 2 Tim 4:18) Why the need for God to crush Satan in Rom 16:20, when they could have just bound him?  Instead of putting on the armor in Eph 6:11-17, or resisting Him in James 4:7, why not just speak out and bind him to the pit?  We forget that God is in complete control of all angels, demons, and Satan, and He has a very good reason to keep the devil on the loose.  He uses the devil, as a tool in His hands, to shape us, correct us, discipline us, humble us, etc.  Are we to think that we can bind one of God’s primary instruments for conforming us into the image of Christ?  Clearly Paul didn’t think so (1 Cor 5:5, 1 Tim 1:20).  

One time I was struggling in a gray area (not in the Bible).  My conscience was being violated, which meant for me it was a sin (Rom 14:23).   One night, I woke up from a terrifying nightmare that a demon (masquerading as a dog) was sucking the breath out of me while I was lying in my bed.  The second I woke up, I knew in my spirit that God, in His mercy, allowed a demon to touch me in my sleep again, because of my disobedience.  I repented, and thanked God for the discipline. The fear of that experience motivated me to stop.  Now imagine someone trying to rebuke and bind the demons from touching me.  It would be a complete waste of time and breath.  What we need to keep the demons at bay, is purity of heart.  You can pray all day for Satan to leave me alone, but if I am leaving the door open through ungodly living, it will make no difference.  If you want to bind demons in your life, keep your breastplate of righteousness on, and live godly.  Many are trying to rebuke the devil in their life, not realizing they are trying to resist the discipline of the Lord in their life.  Remember, Christ is in us, and Satan cannot do anything to us that we do not open the door to, or that God doesn’t allow (1 Sam 16:14, Job 1:12, Luke 22:31-32).

DAY 46 - Ask, Seek, Knock

Do I believe that God wants to give me good gifts, and am I persisting until I receive them?

7  "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  8  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 9  "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

INSIGHT:  An old friend told me that he was told by his pastor that if he keeps asking God for something in prayer, that he is pestering Him and that it shows he didn’t have enough faith to believe him the first time he asked.  If that’s your belief and practice, you will be relegated to receiving only common grace, available even to sinners (Mat 5:45).  Relationships are about asking and receiving, giving and taking.  God wants us to ask, and to keep asking, because it means we are spending time thinking about and focusing on Him.  Anything you acquire through faith and dependence on Him brings Him glory.

You can rest assured that when God answers my prayers regarding my children, my future wife, and the fruit in this ministry, He will have been bombarded with hundreds of prayers about each.  

UPDATE:  (This part is not written in the book, but I'm sure you've already seen by now that my hundreds of prayers about my future wife have been answered...PRAISE GOD for His amazing faithfulness!).  

It has been my delight to repeatedly petition Him about these and other important matters in my life.  I know by faith and experience that God cares about the needs and the desires of His children, and I also know by experience that He delights in our coming to Him over and over, engaging Him in relationship.  How do you think it makes God feel when we come to Him exclusively and repeatedly about our needs and desires, rather than to the world or someone else?  It also delights Him to see us interceding for the needs of others.

When combined with Lk 11:8 and Lk 18:1, we can see Jesus wants us to pray by asking boldly, continually, and never giving up.  This not only strengthens our faith, but builds our relationship with God, as we spend time with Him, in prayer.     If you want to be inspired to pray like never before, listen to the sermon Charles Spurgeon preached on August 12th 1860, entitled “True Prayer, True Power”, on YouTube.  It’s the best I’ve ever heard on prayer.