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).
During my childhood, one of the most feared diseases was polio, often called “infantile paralysis” because most of those infected were young children. Before a preventive vaccine was developed in the mid-1950s, some 20,000 people were paralyzed by polio and about 1,000 died from it each year in the United States alone.
In ancient times, paralysis was viewed as a permanent, hopeless condition. But one group of men believed Jesus could help their paralyzed friend. While Jesus was teaching in the village of Capernaum, four of the men carried the man to Him. When they couldn’t reach Jesus because of the crowd, “they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on” (Mark 2:1-4).
“When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven’ ” (v. 5), followed by “Get up, take your mat and go home” (v. 11). How remarkable that in response to the faith of the men who brought their friend, Jesus forgave his sins and healed his incurable condition!
When someone we know is facing serious physical difficulty or a spiritual crisis, it is our privilege to join together in prayer, bringing our friends to Jesus—the only One who can meet their deepest needs.
When our daughter was 15, she ran away. She was gone more than 3 weeks. Those were the longest 3 weeks of our lives. We looked everywhere for her and sought help from law enforcement and friends. During those desperate days, my wife and I learned the importance of waiting on God in prayer. We had come to the end of our strength and resources. We had to rely on God.
It was on a Father’s Day that we found her. We were in a restaurant parking lot, on our way to dinner, when the phone rang. A waitress at another restaurant had spotted her. Our daughter was only three blocks away. We soon had her home, safe and sound.
We have to wait on God when we pray. We may not know how or when He will answer, but we can put our hearts constantly before Him in prayer. Sometimes the answers to our prayers don’t come when we would hope. Things may even go from bad to worse. But we have to persevere, keep believing, and keep asking.
Waiting is never easy, but the end result, whatever it is, will be worth it. David put it this way: “Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you” (Ps. 9:10).
Keep seeking. Keep trusting. Keep asking. Keep praying.
Life is hard for the villagers who live on a hilly terrain in the Yunnan Province of China. Their main source of food is corn and rice. But in May 2012 a severe drought hit the region and the crops withered. Everyone was worried, and many superstitious practices were carried out as the people attempted to end the drought. When nothing worked, people started blaming the five Christians in the village for offending the spirits of the ancestors.
These five believers gathered to pray. Before long, the sky darkened and thunder was heard. A heavy downpour started and lasted the whole afternoon and night. The crops were saved! While most of the villagers did not believe God sent the rain, others did and desired to find out more about Him and Jesus.
In 1 Kings 17 and 18 we read of a severe drought in Israel. But in this case, we are told, it was a result of God’s judgment on His people (17:1). They had begun to worship Baal, the god of the Canaanites, believing that this deity could send the rain for their crops. Then God, through His prophet Elijah, showed that He is the one true God who determines when rain falls.
Our all-powerful God desires to hear our prayers and answer our pleas. And though we do not always understand His timing or His purposes, God always responds with His best for our lives.
A man was boarding a train in Perth, Australia, when he slipped and his leg got caught in the gap between the train carriage and the station platform. Dozens of passengers quickly came to his rescue. They used their sheer might to tilt the train away from the platform, and the trapped man was freed! The train service’s spokesman, David Hynes, said in an interview, “Everyone sort of pitched in. It was people power that saved someone from possibly quite serious injury.”
In Ephesians 4, we read that people power is God’s plan for building up His family. He has given each of us a special gift of His grace (v. 7) for the specific purpose that “the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (v. 16).
Every person has a job to do in God’s family; there are no spectators. In God’s family we weep and laugh together. We bear each other’s burdens. We pray for and encourage one another. We challenge and help each other to turn from sin. Show us, Father, our part in helping Your family today.
In 1879, archaeologists discovered a remarkable little item in an area now known as Iraq (biblical Babylon). Just 9 inches long, the Cyrus Cylinder records something that King Cyrus of Persia did 2,500 years ago. It says that Cyrus allowed a group of people to return to their homeland and rebuild their “holy cities.”
It’s the same story told in Ezra 1. There we read that “the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia” to make a proclamation (v. 1). And in that proclamation, Cyrus said he was releasing the captives in Babylon to go home to Jerusalem, re-establish their homes, and rebuild their temple (vv. 2-5).
But there’s more to the story. Daniel confessed his sins and his people’s sins and pleaded with God to end the Babylonian captivity (Dan. 9). In response to Daniel’s prayer, God sent an angel to speak to Daniel (v. 21). Later He moved Cyrus to release the Hebrews. (See also Jer. 25:11-12; 39:10.)
Together, the Cyrus Cylinder and God’s Word combine to show us that the king’s heart was changed and he allowed the exiled Hebrews to go home and worship.
This story has great implications for us today. In a world that seems out of control, we can rest assured that God can move the hearts of leaders. We read in Proverbs 21:1 that “the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord.” And Romans 13:1 says that “there is no authority except from God.”
The Lord, who is able to change our own hearts as well as the hearts of our leaders, can be trusted for He is in control. Let’s ask Him to work.
Ivisit two elderly women from time to time. One has no financial worries, is fit for her age, and lives in her own home. But she can always find something negative to say. The other is crippled with arthritis and rather forgetful. She lives in simple accommodations, and keeps a reminder pad so she won’t forget her appointments. But to every visitor to her tiny apartment, her first comment is always the same: “God is so good to me.” Handing her the reminder pad on my last visit, I noticed that she had written the day before “Out to lunch tomorrow! Wonderful! Another happy day.”