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The truth that God hears and responds to prayer is one of the most spiritually attacked truths in the Christian faith. Few things hinder a person’s prayer life more than doubts about whether God is listening or cares about our prayers. Recently I wrote a post based on Exodus 2 to help us grow in faith that God really answers prayer. In that post I mentioned the term ‘groaning prayer’ and today I want to expand on that concept.

The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God.God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.  -Exodus 2:23-25

Sometimes all we have to offer to God are these ‘groaning prayers’. There are times when our life circumstances are so challenging that we feel overwhelmed and the reality of daily life is that we don’t have eloquent and well articulated prayers. Sometimes we’re under so much stress and pressure that all we can offer is a ‘groaning prayer’.

The reason why this is so important is that we must continually war against the lies of the devil, who is always working to keep us from the posture and practice of prayer. One of his most effective deceptions is that our prayers are too weak to be effective. When we have those thoughts and feelings, we must remember this passage in Exodus 2. God heard the groanings of his people and he responded by raising up Moses to deliver the Israelites from the oppression of the Egyptians. These prayers were not fancy prayers, yet God was listening, watching and caring about what was happening.

While it is true that it was God’s sovereign plan to deliver his people, it is also true that God responded to the prayers of his people. In this case the ‘groaning prayers’ of Israel were enough to move God to bring about one of greatest deliverances in history!

Keep this in mind the next time you wonder whether your prayers are strong enough to be heard or whether your prayers could possibly make any difference at all! God really does hear your prayers, even your ‘groaning prayers’ and they are more significant that we can possibly comprehend!

There are times when all of us wrestle with whether God really hears our prayers. I’ve had many times when I’ve wondered whether my prayers are actually having any impact. That’s a normal (and I would say important) part of our spiritual journey.

In Exodus 2:23-25 there is this great statement about God hearing the prayers of the Israelites during the years of their slavery in Egypt:

The Israelites groaned in their slavery and cried out, and their cry for help because of their slavery went up to God.God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob. So God looked on the Israelites and was concerned about them.

One of my favorite aspects is how the prayers of the Israelites are described as ‘groanings’. These are not long eloquent prayers, filled with flowery or spiritual language; they are not what most of us would consider ‘anointed’ prayers. God hears and responds to even the ‘groaning prayers’ of his people!

It’s important to pause and consider those three phrases: ‘God heard‘, ‘God looked‘ and God ‘was concerned’. These phrases are important because they address the most common lies that the devil tries to get us to believe about God. The devil constantly tries to convince us that God is not listening and doesn’t hear our prayers; that God is too busy and that he has forgotten about us; that God must not really care about what is happening in our lives. These verses contain vital truth about the nature and character of God that are designed to empower and sustain our prayer life. It is SO important for us to have these verses in our spiritual ‘arsenal’ so we can respond to those ‘flaming arrows of the evil one’ (Eph. 6:16). The Lord does hear! The Lord does watch over us! The Lord does care about us!

Here’s another stunning aspect of the story in Exodus 2 that will stir our faith that God really does answer prayer: Even before we cry out to God in prayer, God has the answer and God has a plan! The central theme of the chapter is how God chooses Moses to be the deliverer of Israel. We read the familiar story about how Moses’ mother put him in a basket and floated him down the river where he came into the care and protection of the Pharaoh’s daughter. God put a plan of deliverance into motion long before we read about the groaning prayers of the people. God had always heard and watched and cared about what was happening to Israel.

God planned for years to save Moses as a baby and to raise him up into adulthood in order for him to be the answer to the prayers of his people! Let this passage stir your own heart today and awaken faith in you about your own life and circumstances. God IS watching you! God IS hearing you! God DOES care about you. God DOES have a plan!

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As some of you may know, I work as the Director of House of Prayer Edmonton (HoPE). Each week we choose a Scripture as a specific focus for devotional prayer and this past week we were looking at Psalm 33; therefore I want to share a few thoughts from Psalm 33 on how we can develop greater confidence in our prayers.

The Psalm opens with several verses exhorting us to praise God (v. 1-5) and then describes why God is worthy of such praise.

By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. For he spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.  The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.  But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generationsFrom heaven the Lord looks down and sees all mankind;from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth… -v. 6-14 (selections)

The Psalm continues with the incredible promise that “the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love to deliver them from death and keep them alive in famine” (v. 18-19).

Here’s what struck me: the entire focus is on who God is, not on who we are! When we pray we are speaking to the one and only true God who formed the universe, who watches all the plans of world leaders and establishes His plans for the earth. He is the God who ‘sees all mankind’ and ‘considers everything they do’ and who has ‘unfailing love’ for us.

The way to develop greater confidence in prayer is to focus on the truth of who God is, as revealed to us in the Scripture. The Psalmist (likely King David) is speaking about God’s ability to deliver people from the most dire circumstances -famine and death! In the midst of such circumstances, David emphasizes the nature and character of God. This may seem impractical to out modern western minds, however nothing could be further from the truth. We have a great ability to focus on ourselves and our immediate surroundings; just think about most people’s conversations at the local donut shop! We love to recount our circumstances and problems that we are facing. The problem is, that focus will actually weaken our confidence and even our motivation to pray!

When our perspective is on God’s power to form the entire universe, his continual involvement in the realities of the world, and his unfailing love towards us, we will have greater confidence in our prayers. This confidence can grow to the point where we are able to rejoice and trust God (v. 21), even in the most challenging circumstances of life!

I will conclude with verse 22:

May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you.

Amen!

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Looking Toward 2013

As we move into a new year, I wanted to share some words from A.W. Tozer  in The Knowledge of the Holy that continue to impact me. I believe they are as timely for 2013 as they have ever been:

So necessary to the Church is a lofty concept of God that when that concept in any measure declines, the Church with her worship and her moral standards declines along with it. The first step down for any church is taken when it surrenders its high opinion of God.

The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him – and of her. We do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing on to them undimmed and undiminished that noble concept of God which we received from our Hebrew and Christian fathers of generations past.

In recent months I have very much come to agree with what Tozer has written and my prayer is that my ministry at House of Prayer Edmonton will help to expand and elevate the view of Jesus Christ among the believers in Edmonton and beyond, so that we will love God more fully and worship Him more deeply.

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Reflections on Isaiah 53

This past weekend was Easter and the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. One of the most famous Old Testament passages about Christ’s passion is found in Isaiah 53. Last week I spent an extended amount of time praying through Isaiah 53 in the HoPE prayer room. (For  those not familiar, I work with a Christian ministry called House of Prayer Edmonton, which has a prayer room that serves the capital region of Edmonton through daily times of prayer and worship.)

There were many things that stood out for me in this chapter, but let me share a bit on one particular verse:

Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. (verse 10)

Most people get caught up on the theology of the first half of the verse, pondering how it could be the will of God for Jesus to suffer (which is a very important issue to consider). What I want to comment on is the later part of the verse, that ‘the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand‘. Jesus walked in perfect submission to the purposes and will of God and it was said that God’s will ‘prospered’ in his hand, meaning in his life. God entrusted the plan of salvation into the hands of His Son, giving Jesus full opportunity to legitimately choose whether to ‘walk out’ that plan. We know from the gospel accounts that Jesus was overwhelmed by the prospect of His sufferings (Matt. 26:38), and that could have delivered himself by calling upon legions of angels to save him (Matt. 26:53); yet Jesus voluntarily chose to walk the way of the cross. The choice of Jesus to walk in obedient submission the God’s will is the essence of what it means that the ‘will of God will prosper in his hand’.

This past week I have prayed around this verse, considering whether the will of the Lord will ‘prosper’ in my life. Colossians 1:9 offers a prayer for us to pray that we would have clarity concerning the ‘knowledge of his will’. I understand that God has thoughts and plans concerning my life, which are referred to as his will. How am I walking those plans out? Is the will of the Lord prospering in my life? What does it mean for God’s will to ‘prosper’ in my life?

I am convinced that at the heart of it, there must be an obedient submission to what God is wanting me to do (as well as what he causes to happen in my life).

I will close with a excerpt from a short prayer I wrote in my journal log book that I use in the prayer room:

May your will prosper in my life. God I pray, let your kingdom come and let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, and specifically in my life today. Help me to be in agreement, submission and participation with your will O Lord. Amen.

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As many people are aware, in recent weeks there has been a great deal of attention paid to a Christian leader named Harold Camping and his group of followers who have predicted the end of the world on May 21 at 6 p.m. Certainly the man is completely off base in his predictions and there is an ample amount of ridicule being circulated in response to Camping and similar predictions about the ‘end of the world’. People like Camping do absolutely nothing but create problems for the broader Christian community by making a mockery of the faith in the eyes of many people who are not Christ followers.

However what I want to comment on is what I see as the potential ‘bright side’ of this entire drama.

Since the 1980′s and the rise and fall in popularity of Hal Lindsay, who also wrote extensively and convincingly on the end-times and the return of Christ, the whole topic of the ‘end-times’ or eschatology, has fallen out of vogue (so to speak) in the majority of Church circles.

Speaking as an ordained pastor myself, I can say from experience that all that is expected of most pastors today is to simply affirm that Jesus Christ will return physically to the earth one day. The details of how or the sequence of events leading up to his return are seen as a matter of personal belief. This has led to very little teaching in evangelical circles on the Biblical teachings on the return of Christ.

This in turn has resulted in most Christians being woefully illiterate on the subject and far worse, they are apathetic and indifferent about Christ’s coming. It is most commonly seen as an event that will happen far in the future, beyond the time of our own earthly lives. Further still, many Christians see the return of Christ as a ‘scary time’ that they honestly hope to avoid!

This a significant problem because when you look at the Scriptures, you see that the return of Christ is the great hope of the Christian faith. In 2 Timothy 4:8 the apostle Paul states that it is central to our faith that we anticipate and actually long for Christ’s return.  Paul was coming toward the end of his life and reflecting back on his ministry and writes this:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day–and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.   – 2 Tim. 4:7-8 (emphasis added)

Similarly, in 1 Corinthians Paul expresses the same thing saying that the believers would ‘eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus to be revealed’ (1 Cor. 1:7).

There is a great need in the Church today for proper teaching on the return of Christ; teaching that again stirs our hearts toward longing for the return of Christ our King. There has always been tremendous debate over the events leading up to Christ’s coming, but when we look at Scripture we see is that the intent is for us to be fixed primarily on the person who is coming and not only on the process of his return. Both are very important, but they must be in proper order. Our great hope is that our King of Kings, Jesus Christ will come again to rule and reign over all the nations and people of the earth!

I am praying these days quite a bit about this theme, asking God to awaken passion in the Church for the coming of Christ again to the earth. I am reminded that as Christians, “we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13)

Amen, come Lord Jesus, come!

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Apology from the author

As the author of Prayer Journal, I must apologize for the lack of content on the blog. I have allowed myself to get rather consumed by work related activities.

If you are interested, I just wrote of blog entry on my website on the topic of why Christians should pray for the upcoming Canadian election. Rather than re-post the blog here, you can view the post using this link.

I certainly will work to do better at providing content in the near future here at Prayer Journal!

Blessings to you, Jim Hall

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