In the summer of 2015, Hunter (aged 15) carried his brother Braden (8) for a fifty-seven-mile walk to raise awareness of the needs of people with cerebral palsy. Braden weighs sixty pounds, so Hunter needed frequent rest stops where others helped him stretch his muscles, and he wore special harnesses to disperse Braden’s weight. Hunter says that while the harnesses helped with the physical discomfort, what helped him most were the people along the way. “If it weren’t for everyone cheering and walking with us, I wouldn’t have been able to do it. . . . My legs were sore but my friends picked me up and I made it through . . . .” His mom named the arduous trek “The Cerebral Palsy Swagger.”
The apostle Paul, who we think of as strong and courageous, also needed to be “picked up.” In Romans 16 he lists a number of people who did just that for him. They served alongside him, encouraged him, met his needs, and prayed for him. He mentions Phoebe; Priscilla and Aquila who were co-workers; Rufus’s mother who had been like a mother to him as well; Gaius who showed him hospitality; and many more.
We all need friends who pick us up, and we all know of others who need our encouragement. As Jesus helps and carries us, let us help one another.
What are the five best toys of all time? Jonathan H. Liu suggested the following: A stick, a box, string, a cardboard tube, and dirt (GeekDad column at wired.com). All are readily available, versatile, appropriate for all ages, fit every budget, and are powered by imagination. No batteries required.
Imagination plays a powerful role in our lives, so it’s not unusual that the apostle Paul mentioned it in his prayer for the followers of Jesus in Ephesus (Eph. 3:14–21). After asking God to strengthen them with His power through His Spirit (v. 16), Paul prayed that they would be able to grasp and experience the full dimension of the love of Christ (vv. 17–19). In closing, Paul gave glory to “him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (v. 20).
Often our experience limits our prayers—a situation we can’t picture being different; destructive habits that remain unbroken; long-held attitudes that seen to defy change. As time passes, we may begin to feel that some things cannot be changed. But Paul says that is not true.
By God’s mighty power working in us, He is able to do far more than we may dare to ask or even dream of.
During a concert, singer-songwriter David Wilcox responded to a question from the audience about how he composes songs. He said there are three aspects to his process: a quiet room, an empty page, and the question, “Is there something I should know?” It struck me as a wonderful approach for followers of Jesus as we seek the Lord’s plan for our lives each day.
Throughout Jesus’ public ministry, He took time to be alone in prayer. After feeding 5,000 people with five loaves of bread and two fish, He sent His disciples to cross the Sea of Galilee by boat while He dismissed the crowd (Matt. 14:22). “After [Jesus] had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night he was there alone” (v. 23).
If the Lord Jesus saw the need to be alone with His Father, how much more we need a daily time of solitude to pour out our hearts to God, ponder His Word, and prepare to follow His directions.
A quiet room—anywhere we can focus on the Lord without distractions.
An empty page—a receptive mind, a blank sheet of paper, a willingness to listen.
Is there something I should know? “Lord, speak to me by Your Spirit, Your written Word, and the assurance of Your direction.”
From that quiet hillside, Jesus descended into a violent storm, knowing exactly what His Father wanted Him to do (vv. 24-27).
A women’s prayer group in my country holds regular monthly prayer sessions for Ghana and other African countries. When asked why they pray so incessantly for the nations, their leader Gifty Dadzie remarked, “Look around, listen to and watch the news. Our nations are hurting: war, disaster, diseases, and violence threaten to overshadow God’s love for humanity and His blessing upon us. We believe God intervenes in the affairs of nations, so we praise Him for His blessings and cry for His intervention.”
The Bible reveals that God indeed intervenes in the affairs of nations (2 Chron. 7:14). And when God intervenes, He uses ordinary people. We may not be assigned huge tasks, but we can play our part to help bring about peace and the righteousness that exalts a nation (Prov. 14:34). We can do that through prayer. The apostle Paul wrote, “I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Tim. 2:1–2).
As the psalmist exhorted the ancient Israelites to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem” (Psalm 122:6), so may we pray for the peace and healing of our nations. When we pray in humility, turn from wickedness, and seek God, He hears us.
At the end of one school semester, my wife and I picked up our daughter from her school 100 kilometers (60 miles) away. On our way back home we detoured to a nearby beach resort for snacks. While enjoying our time there, we watched the boats at the seashore. Usually they are anchored to prevent them from drifting away, but I noticed one boat drifting unhindered among the others—slowly and steadily making its way out to sea.
As we drove home, I reflected on the timely caution given to believers in the book of Hebrews: "We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away" (Heb. 2:1). We have good reason to stay close. The author of Hebrews says that while the Mosaic law was reliable and needed to be obeyed, the message of the Son of God is far superior. Our salvation is “so great” in Jesus that He shouldn’t be ignored.
Drifting in our relationship with God is hardly noticeable at first; it happens gradually. However, spending time talking with Him in prayer and reading His Word, confessing our wrongs to Him, and interacting with other followers of Jesus can help us stay anchored in Him. As we connect with the Lord regularly, He will be faithful to sustain us, and we can avoid drifting away.
When the minister asked one of his elders to lead the congregation in prayer, the man shocked everyone. “I’m sorry, Pastor,” he said, “but I’ve been arguing with my wife all the way to church, and I’m in no condition to pray.” The next moment was awkward. The minister prayed. The service moved on. Later, the pastor vowed never to ask anyone to pray publicly without first asking privately.
That man demonstrated astonishing honesty in a place where hypocrisy would have been easier. But there is a larger lesson about prayer here. God is a loving Father. If I as a husband do not respect and honor my wife—a cherished daughter of God—why would her heavenly Father hear my prayers?
The apostle Peter made an interesting observation about this. He instructed husbands to treat their wives with respect and as equal heirs in Christ “so that nothing will hinder your prayers” (1 Peter 3:7). The underlying principle is that our relationships affect our prayer life.
What would happen if we exchanged the Sunday smiles and the façade of religiosity for refreshing honesty with our brothers and sisters? What might God do through us when we pray and learn to love each other as we love ourselves?
Hearing testimonies about how God did something spectacular in someone else’s life can challenge us. While we may rejoice to hear about answers to prayer, we may also wonder why God hasn’t done anything amazing for us lately.
It’s easy to think that if God showed up in astonishing ways for us like He did for Abraham, then we would be more inspired to be faithful servants of God. But then we remember that God showed up for Abraham every 12 to 14 years, and most of Abraham’s journey was rather ordinary (see Gen. 12:1-4; 15:1-6; 16:16–17:12).
God’s work is usually done behind the scenes in the ordinary things of life. As our text says, “He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out” (1 Cor. 10:13). Every day God is busy shielding us from devastating onslaughts of Satan that would otherwise leave us helplessly defeated. And when temptation hits, He is making exit ramps for us so we can escape.
When we put our head on the pillow at night, we should pause to thank God for the amazing things He has done for us that day in the midst of our ordinary lives. So, instead of longing for Him to do something spectacular for you, rejoice! He already has.
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.