She called herself a worrier, but when her child was hurt in an accident, she learned how to escape that restricting label. As her child was recovering, she met each week with friends to talk and pray, asking God for help and healing. Through the months as she turned her fears and concerns into prayer, she realized that she was changing from being a worrier to a prayer warrior. She sensed that the Lord was giving her a new name. Her identity in Christ was deepening through the crucible of unwanted heartache.
In Jesus’ letter to the church at Pergamum, the Lord promises to give to the faithful a white stone with a new name on it (Rev. 2:17). Biblical commentators have debated over the meaning, but most agree that this white stone points to our freedom in Christ. In biblical times, juries in a court of law used a white stone for a not-guilty verdict and a black stone for guilty. A white stone also gained the bearer entrance into such events as banquets; likewise, those who receive God’s white stone are welcomed to the heavenly feast. Jesus’ death brings us freedom and new life—and a new name.
What new name do you think God might give to you?
I was so happy for my friend when she told me she was going to be a mum! Together we counted the days until the birth. But when the baby suffered a brain injury during delivery, my heart broke and I didn’t know how to pray. All I knew was who I should pray to—God. He is our Father, and He hears us when we call.
I knew that God was capable of miracles. He brought Jairus’ daughter back to life (Luke 8:49-55) and in so doing also healed the girl of whatever disease had robbed her of life. So I asked Him to bring healing for my friend’s baby too.
But what if God doesn’t heal? I wondered. Surely He doesn’t lack the power. Could it be He doesn’t care? I thought of Jesus’ suffering on the cross and the explanation that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Then I remembered the questions of Job and how he learned to see the wisdom of God as shown in the creation around him (Job 38–39).
Slowly I saw how God calls us to Him in the details of our lives. In God’s grace, my friend and I learned together what it means to call on the Lord and to trust Him—whatever the outcome.
I like Reepicheep, C. S. Lewis’ tough little talking mouse in the Chronicles of Narnia series. Determined to reach the “utter East” and join the great lion Aslan [symbolic of Christ], Reepicheep declares his resolve: “While I may, I sail East in Dawn Treader. When she fails me, I row East in my coracle [small boat]. When that sinks, I shall paddle East with my four paws. Then, when I can swim no longer, if I have not yet reached Aslan’s Country, there shall I sink with my nose to the sunrise.”
Paul put it another way: “I press on toward the goal" (Phil. 3:14). His goal was to be like Jesus. Nothing else mattered. He admitted that he had much ground to cover but he would not give up until he attained that to which Jesus had called him.
None of us are what we should be, but we can, like the apostle, press and pray toward that goal. Like Paul we will always say, “I have not yet arrived." Nevertheless, despite weakness, failure, and weariness we must press on (v.12). But everything depends on God. Without Him we can do nothing!
God is with you, calling you onward. Keep paddling!
I learned to recite the Lord's Prayer as a boy in primary school. Every time I said the line, "Give us today our daily bread" (Matt. 6:11), I couldn't help but think about the bread that we got only occasionally at home. Only when my father returned from his trip into town did we have a loaf of bread. So asking God to give us our daily bread was a relevant prayer to me.
How curious I was when years later I discovered the booklet Our Daily Bread. I knew the title came from the Lord’s Prayer, but I also knew it couldn’t be talking about the loaf of bread from the baker’s shop. I discovered as I read the booklet regularly that this "bread," full of Scripture portions and helpful notes, was spiritual food for the soul.
It was spiritual food that Mary chose when she sat at the feet of Jesus and listened attentively to His words (Luke 10:39). While Martha wearied herself with concern about physical food, Mary was taking time to be near their guest, the Lord Jesus, and to listen to Him. May we take that time as well. He is the Bread of Life (John 6:35), and He feeds our hearts with spiritual food. He is the Bread that satisfies.
Do you struggle to maintain a consistent prayer life? Many of us do. We know that prayer is important, but it can also be downright difficult. We have moments of deep communion with God and then we have times when it feels like we’re just going through the motions. Why do we struggle so in our prayers?
The life of faith is a marathon. The ups, the downs, and the plateaus in our prayer life are a reflection of this race. And just as in a marathon we need to keep running, so we keep praying. The point is: Don’t give up!
That is God’s encouragement too. The apostle Paul said, “Pray continually” (1 Thess. 5:17), “keep on praying” (Rom. 12:12 nlt), and “devote yourselves to prayer” (Col. 4:2). All of these statements carry the idea of remaining steadfast and continuing in the work of prayer.
And because God, our heavenly Father, is a personal being, we can develop a time of close communion with Him, just as we do with our close human relationships. A. W. Tozer writes that as we learn to pray, our prayer life can grow “from the initial most casual brush to the fullest, most intimate communion of which the human soul is capable.” And that’s what we really want—deep communication with God. It happens when we keep praying.
In the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem you’ll find Tiferet Yisrael Synagogue. Built in the 19th century, the synagogue was dynamited by commandos during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
For years the site lay in ruins. Then, in 2014, rebuilding began. As city officials set a piece of rubble as the cornerstone, one of them quoted from Lamentations: “Restore us to yourself, Lord, that we may return; renew our days as of old” (5:21).
Lamentations is Jeremiah’s funeral song for Jerusalem. With graphic imagery the prophet describes the impact of war on his city. Verse 21 is his heartfelt prayer for God to intervene. Still, the prophet wonders if that is even possible. He concludes his anguished song with this fearful caveat: “unless you have utterly rejected us and are angry with us beyond measure” (v.22). Decades later, God did answer that prayer as the exiles returned to Jerusalem.
Our lives too may seem to be in ruins. Troubles of our own making and conflicts we can’t avoid may leave us devastated. But we have a Father who understands. Gently, patiently, He clears away the rubble, repurposes it, and builds something better. It takes time, but we can always trust Him. He specializes in rebuilding projects.
Until recently, many towns in rural Ireland didn’t use house numbers or postal codes. So if there were three Patrick Murphys in town, the newest resident with that name would not get his mail until it was first delivered to the other two Patrick Murphys who had lived there longer. “My neighbors would get it first,” said Patrick Murphy (the newest resident). “They’d have a good read, and they’d go, ‘No, it’s probably not us.’ ” To end all this mail-delivery confusion, the Irish government recently instituted its first postal-code system which will ensure the proper delivery of the mail.
Sometimes when we pray we feel like we need help delivering to God what is on our heart. We may not know the right words to say or how to express our deep longings. The apostle Paul says in Romans 8 that the Holy Spirit helps us and intercedes for us by taking our unspeakable “groanings” and presenting them to the Father. “We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (v. 26). The Spirit always prays according to God’s will, and the Father knows the mind of the Spirit.
Be encouraged that God hears us when we pray and He knows our deepest needs.
When we think of the chameleon, we probably think of its ability to change color according to its surroundings. But this lizard has another interesting characteristic. On several occasions I've watched a chameleon walk along a pathway and wondered how it ever reached its destination. Reluctantly, the chameleon stretches out one leg, seems to change its mind, attempts again, and then carefully plants a hesitant foot, as if afraid the ground will collapse under it. That was why I couldn't help laughing when I heard someone say, “Do not be a chameleon church member who says, ‘Let me go to church today; no, let me go next week; no, let me wait for a while!’”
“The house of the Lord” at Jerusalem was King David’s place of worship, and he was far from being a “chameleon” worshiper. Rather, he rejoiced with those who said, “Let us go to the house of the Lord” (Ps. 122:1). The same was true for believers in the early church. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. . . . Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts” (Acts 2:42, 46).
What a joy it is to join with others in worship and fellowship! Praying and worshiping together, studying the Scriptures together, and caring for one another are essential for our spiritual growth and unity as believers.
The Akan people of Ghana have a proverb: “The lizard is not as mad with the boys who threw stones at it as with the boys who stood by and rejoiced over its fate!” Rejoicing at someone’s downfall is like participating in the cause of that downfall or even wishing more evil on the person.
That was the attitude of the Ammonites who maliciously rejoiced when the temple in Jerusalem “was desecrated and over the land of Israel when it was laid waste and over the people of Judah when they went into exile” (Ezek. 25:3). For spitefully celebrating Israel’s misfortunes, the Ammonites experienced God’s displeasure, which resulted in grim consequences (vv. 4-7).
How do we react when disaster befalls our neighbor or when our neighbor gets into trouble? If she is a nice and friendly neighbor, then, of course, we will sympathize with her and go to her aid. But what if he is an unfriendly, trouble-making neighbor? Our natural tendency may be to ignore him or even secretly rejoice at his downfall.
Proverbs warns us: “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice” (24:17). Instead, Jesus tells us that we show His love in action when we “love [our] enemies and pray for those who persecute [us]” (Matt. 5:44). By so doing, we imitate the perfect love of our Lord (5:48).