If you want to discover the plan God has for your life, pray for it before you look for it. Today we’ll take a look at four benefits of prayer. These four benefits come from the book, Hand Me Another Brick by Charles Swindoll.
PRAYER MAKES YOU WAIT
You have to stop what you’re doing in order to pray. (This is especially important if you’re driving.) Nehemiah prayed for four months after hearing the wall around Jerusalem needed to be rebuilt. It was obvious what needed to be done. But he still took the time to pray and seek wisdom in how to proceed.
Of course we can say a quick prayer in our head as we are completing a task. Nehemiah did as much when the king asked him what was on his heart. I’m talking about the type of prayer where we empty our minds of all things except for the voice of God. This kind of prayer keeps us from making quick decisions. It forces us to slow down and wait for God’s wisdom.
Waiting before acting does not represent a lack of faith. It is a sign of mature faith. Children don’t like to wait. They cry and act out if they don’t get what they want immediately. We teach children patience in order to help them mature. We need to be the same in our adult spiritual lives.
Don’t regret making a decision without prayer. Take the time. Wait. Pray.
PRAYER CLEARS YOUR VISION
Praying for God’s plan for you will make you think about God’s plan for you. You can’t move forward with a plan for your life if you don’t know what that plan is. It would be like a carpenter building furniture without knowing what their making. You need to have a clear vision of what you want to build before you can build it.
When you start praying to God to reveal his plan for you, you will begin to be more focused. You will start to discover ideas and ways to carry them out. When Nehemiah was asked by the King what he needed, he was able to do more than share his concern. Nehemiah had a clear vision for the solution. He requested letters for safe travel, permission for timber to build gates, and even had a timeline in mind for when he would return. It’s a good thing Nehemiah waited before going to the king. His plan was so well thought out he was able to make specific requests when asked what he needed.
PRAYER QUIETS YOUR HEART
In a true conversation, there is as much listening as there is speaking. In fact, listening is often more important. As the saying goes, the good Lord gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason. Prayer requires that we listen to what God is saying to us. The more we listen, the more our hearts will calm down.
Oftentimes when we go to God in prayer our hearts are filled with the noises of the world; fear, anger, worry, anxiety…It’s hard to hear God when there is so much noise in our hearts. But as we pray and focus on God, those things lose our attention. As the sounds of the world fade away, the voice of God begins to become more audible. It’s not that God’s voice wasn’t there. We just need to let those things go away. We need our hearts to be quiet so we can hear the message of God.
PRAYER ACTIVATES YOUR FAITH
One of the first things Nehemiah did confronted with the status of the wall was pray. He prayed continually. If Nehemiah had not prayed, he may have not thought the task was possible. Building a wall around a city? Needing permission from a king from another city to do it? Why would King Artexerxes, the king for whom Nehemiah worked want to make another city more fortified? It would take a lot of faith on Nehemiah’s part to seek permission to rebuild.
What do you want to build in your life? You need to have the faith to do it. Praying activates that faith. It can be like the pep talk a coach gives their team before the big game. You can’t open yourself up to God and not be changed.
EVERY JOURNEY MUST BEGIN WITH PRAYER
A journey of a thousand miles may begin with a single step. But a successful plan begins with prayer. As you journey toward your destination, don’t forget to stop and pray. Wait. You can’t move forward if you’re kneeling. Pray to clear your mind and receive God’s vision. Listen. You won’t hear God speaking if you’re doing all the talking or paying attention to the world’s bullying. Do this, and your faith will be activated so you will have the courage to do what you may previously thought was not possible.
When I was a teenager Twisted Sister came out with the song, “We’re not Gonna Take It.” The video started off with an overly aggressive father yelling at his son, "What do you want to do with your life?” The boy’s answer, “I wanna rock!”
It was a just a video but that line haunted me… “What do you want to do with your life?” Well? Do you know?
In the Bible we read about a man named Nehemiah who knew exactly how to answer that question. He discovered that the wall around the city of Jerusalem was in disrepair. The moment he discovered that, he knew what he wanted to do with his life. He was going to lead the charge to rebuild the wall.
Today I want to share the first of four steps to discovering the plan that God has for you.
STEP ONE: BE PASSIONATELY PASSIONATE
When Nehemiah learned that the wall around Jerusalem needed repair he had a passionate response. He immediately sat down and wept. Then he mourned, fasted and prayed for weeks. People have strong reactions to the things they are passionate about.
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE PASSIONATE ABOUT?
You constantly think about it.
When you are passionate about something it is always on your mind. Whether it’s a car you want to buy, a job you hope to get or that girl you want to date.
You will sacrifice comfort
Nehemiah gave up the comforts of his lifestyle of serving a king to go and rebuild the wall around Jerusalem. Missionaries give up hot showers. People in the military sacrifice time with their families. Public school teachers give up higher pay and more respect they could earn in the private sector to pursue their passion of teaching.
You will give your money
Everyone says that money is tight. And for most of us it is. And yet, we seem to have most of those things we desire. Jesus said in Matthew, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21. You want to know where your heart is? Look at your bank statement and see where your money is going.
You will give your time
Money may be valuable. But time seems to be the most prized possession we have. As a pastor, I find it easier to get people to donate money over donating their time.
Nehemiah could have just written a check and asked someone else to build the wall. He could have done fundraisers, spaghetti dinners and written articles on the tax benefits of making donations. But until someone took the time to pick up the stones and start stacking them together, there wasn’t going to be a wall.
Same goes for us. Want an education? You can save up all the money it takes to go to the best college in the world and earn a degree. You can save enough money to get two degrees. But until you invest the time to study and take the tests, you’re not going to get that diploma. An education takes more than money, it takes time.
You are self motivated
Nobody told Nehemiah he needed to rebuild the wall. He just did it. Nobody needs to remind you to do the things you love. Those things come naturally. You just do them.
You know what you’re passionate about. You think about it. You sacrifice for it. You give your money for it. And no one needs to tell you to do it. So what in your life fits all those criteria? Think about it. Because the answer to that, may lead you to the plan God has for you!
We're not inclined to make a change in our life if we are complacent. Often times, real change comes when we are dissatisfied with the way things are. Have you ever seen a group of picketers with signs that say, "Our pay is adequate”? Of course not! People go on strike when they have become so dissatisfied with some level of employment that they join the picket line.
Sometimes we have to reach a point of dissatisfaction that makes us ready for change. Dissatisfaction leads to change. Complacency on the other hand is dangerous. It keeps us places that are not safe.
Dictionary.com defines complacency as: a feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger.
Do you ever think of becoming more? Or are you just satisfied enough to stay where you are? That is the danger of complacency. It robs us of vision… for a better future, for a better life. While the life that awaits us passes by, a life that deprives us of memories swallows us up.
This may sound crazy but if you want to be happier you need to start being dissatisfied with where you are. Acknowledge that good enough is no longer good enough. Turn your good enough into great.
Last summer I did a few projects in my back yard which killed the grass. I didn’t just have dead grass, I had bare spots. Just plain dirt
This summer I promised my wife a garden box. I planned on putting it in the corner of the yard where the grass was really nice.
So I transplanted the grass to the dirt spots.
I had to water it constantly because it was turning brown.But it lived.It wasn’t going to die as long as it was watered.
For a while, the grass looked like it would have been better off if I left it where it was. But if it stayed there it would have died. A garden box and a pile of dirt was going on top. It was only going to live if it was transplanted.
It wasn’t just moved. It was moved with a purpose. The grass no longer filled a purpose where it was. It now filled a spot. But it needed extra water when it got there. At least until it took root
If grass could speak it would have had some choice words for me!
I took a shovel to it
I poked it
I ripped it
I tore it
I ripped out the roots
Some of it died
I knew some of it would die
It got weak
I knew it would get weak
But I knew I would take care of it
I would water it
I would tend to it
I would fertilize it
I had a plan for it
It would have died if I didn’t do any of those things
There are times when we are that grass aren’t we?
God takes us and moves us
A part of us dies
But what we forget sometimes is that if we stay where we are we will die
Moving is hard
We will need extra care
But God, the One who moves us, will provide what we need so we can take root in our new place
Jesus said, “whoever drinks water from a well will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.”
The world will offer you something to eat. I’m not talking about pizza and beer. I mean meaning and purpose. The world has a lot to offer. It’s hard to keep up. But whatever the world offers you, it’s not permanent
Wherever you go to be fed, it will not be enough.
You will get hungry again.
You will get thirsty again.
I’m talking hunger of the heart
A thirst down in your soul
You know what I mean
You’ve tried different things to make yourself feel good. To feel full. To feel satisfied.
The thirst we have in our soul can’t be quenched by just anything
It can only be quenched by Living Water
Jesus said, “whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst again.”
Are you ready to be fed by Jesus Christ, Living Water?
If you are ready to drink, drink with me.
A few months back I test drove a pickup from a private seller. It was a great truck and the seller, the first and only owner, took excellent care of it. There was one issue though. One little bulb in the dashboard wouldn’t light up leaving a dark spot in the speedometer. The seller said it had always been like that. After driving the truck for about 7 years, he learned to get used to it and assured me I would too. I believed him and bought it.
After driving the truck for about 7 months I decided to look into fixing that little bulb. I went online and found detailed, step by step instructions on how to take the dashboard apart. It involved wrenches of various sizes, several screws and bolts, electrical wiring and even more patience. I went out to the garage and took a closer look at all the parts I’d have to remove. With the driver’s door opened and while down on one knee, I took my index finger to the spot that wouldn’t light up and…bap! I tapped the screen a few times.
And then it happened.
A tiny little burst of light.
The dark spot was gone!
I stared in amazement. I was going to take the whole thing apart. I couldn’t believe it.. but there it was. The entire screen was lit up like a brand new truck.
And all I did was “bap” it.
Do you have a dark spot in your life? Not a big spot. Just a little one. Enough that you notice but not enough that you feel too urgent about fixing. Maybe you just got used to living with it. That little dark spot in your life.
Perhaps you think it’s not worth the effort of tackling. There are so many little layers to who we are. Fixing that one little spot would mean taking other things apart. It’s just a spot. Learn to live with it.
Have you been living with a dark spot inside of you simply because you allow it or have gotten used to it? Sometimes, we allow something to linger because we don’t face it. Those little dark spots become a blemish that we learn to live with.
Maybe what you need is a “bap.”
Take a close look at that spot in your life and “bap” it.
Pay that lingering bill. BAP!
Make that phone call… BAP! BAP!
Apologize for the pain you caused. BAP! BAP! BAP!
See the light come on.
See what the darkness was hiding.
See everything lit up as it should be.
And you’ll feel brand new.
This is my real kitchen!
Today I finished remodeling my kitchen. It started two years ago. It took about 3-4 months to get 99% of the job done. Then I took a break for about... oh... 18 months. (I have a great union.) I needed to level all the doors and secure the dishwasher. Leveling the doors was pretty easy. The hinges are adjustable. It just took some patience. To secure the dishwasher I just needed two screws that aren't as long as the counter top is thick. (I measured three times for that!) Until today some of our doors were crooked and the dishwasher tilted forward every time we opened it.
So why did I wait so long? I don't know. It seems that whenever I'm about 95% done with something I'm done. A 95% is an "A" after all. Those final two steps took about 2 hours. That included the 40 minute phone call I had on my coffee break. (I told you, great union.)
Do you ever do that? No not the 40 minute coffee break. We all do that. I mean the 'I'm almost done but for some reason I'm going to call it done projects'? I have a lot of them. That's my project for this summer - to finish off the projects I started last summer. They include:
* Fixing that one loose paver on the patio I installed (The other 798 are just fine thank you)
* Changing the lock on the screen door (all the screws are out except that one. I wonder where I put them? It was about 4 months ago)
* After replacing all the tile in my house with wood flooring last year, I have about 4 feet of baseboard to put under the sink cabinet
* Painting about 5 inches worth of space in my church office (the other 99% wore me out)
* Staining a handrail I installed (hey, it meets code!)
* Fixing the drawer on my entertainment center so that after I open it I can actually close it.
* There are more, but I'm about 95% there....
I myself am a work in progress. We all are. The Great Carpenter is doing his work in all of us. Fortunately, I know God will complete his work in me..."And I am sure that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on that day when Christ Jesus comes back again." Philippians 1:6.
Do you have any projects that are incomplete? Why don't you respond and share what they are? I need to feel better about myself.