Last Saturday night Jolene and I put our granddaughters down to bed, and we had a great prayer time together. As often happens during this time, our granddaughters will ask questions. My oldest granddaughter asked if Russia was going to attack us. We assured her the war was a long way away and wasn’t coming here. Then our youngest granddaughter asked why we closed our eyes to pray. It was a precious time.
Then I got ready for bed. On Saturday nights before I preach, I try to go to bed a bit earlier as my Sunday morning starts at 5 am. My usual nightly routine includes a prayer time as I lay in bed. But I found my prayer going in a direction I hadn’t experienced in a long time. I started by begging God to stop the war in Ukraine. I prayed for my Ukrainian friends by name. But the longer I prayed, the more unsettled I got. I absolutely believe God is all-powerful. I also believe that he is good. So why doesn’t he stop this stupid useless war? He can. Why hasn’t he? The more intensely I prayed, the angrier I got.
Then the Holy Spirit reminded me that my anger, frustration, and confusion were not unique to me or this time. How many times during World War 2 did people beg God for the war to stop? How many times have parents of a child with a terminal disease cried out to God to heal their child? How many times have those who have been victims of evil pleaded with God for relief and help? There’s nothing new under the sun.
Then I remembered how David was also angry and prayed to ask God to severely punish those who are evil. Psalm 109 is one of those prayers. I’ve now read that Psalm over and over. As I read it, I substitute Putin and his cronies into David’s cry for punishment. If you’ve not read Psalm 109 lately, click here to read it. He prays that his enemy’s days would be few and that his children would become beggars without a father. He prays that all kinds of evil be done to one who did him evil. He calls on God to multiply curses on his adversary. That’s how I want to pray. I empathize with David’s anger and disgust.
In days past, when I was unaffected by evil, I would read Psalm 109 and think how strange that such a writing would be included in the Bible. About 30 statements of judgment, revenge, or curse are declared in this Psalm. These are in direct opposition to the teaching of Jesus – read Matthew 5. Frankly, this Psalm seems wrong and inappropriate. Why is it even in the Bible? Because that’s how godly people feel sometimes. It’s a reminder that we are broken human beings.
My two words for this year are kindness and gentleness. You don’t see any of that in Psalm 109. But the Psalms do not always proclaim an eternal truth for all to embrace, but rather express the real emotions of one who’s suffering. I’m suffering as my dear friends are suffering. I know that I’m not alone in this anguish. I hear from my friends in Ukraine their version of this angry prayer. I have prayed my version of this Psalm against Putin and his war on innocent people.
But you have to read the Psalm to the end (this is often the case in David’s psalms). Read Psalm 109:21-31. It describes me. It describes you. It’s an admission of our need for help. It is a confession of our weakness and brokenness. It’s an admission of our humanity with all its carnal reactions. It’s also a declaration that in spite of the evil, God has not abandoned us and is with us, and his love never stops.
This Psalm reflects life. We are human and react out of the flesh. We are also children of God who are led by the Spirit. Both are operating at the same time. Because the flesh and the Spirit are at war, Paul writes this in Galatians 5:16-17 – So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.
It is a daily journey in faith to learn to walk by or be led by the Spirit and not let the flesh have its way. What a difficult journey it is. And thanks be to God that his grace is abundant as we struggle to follow the way of Jesus.
We just started a new series called Peacemakers. Why? Our nation (and world) needs peace. You and I need peace. Jesus calls us to be peacemakers to fulfill our true identity as his children (Matthew 5:9). But on our own, we can’t make peace. Peace first starts inside us before it can move beyond us. The source of peace is God and God alone.
God reminded me of a situation in the book of Acts. It’s found in Acts 12:1-19. King Herod has just arrested people in the new church that had formed. He put James and John, some of the first disciples, to death. Being an astute politician, he saw that made the Jews happy so he arrested Peter too. He was going to do to Peter what was done to Jesus!
Then there’s Acts 12:5 – So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him. The church prayed earnestly! What happened? An angel appeared, his chains dropped off and he walked right past the guards. That would be a great ending, but there’s more.
He goes to the very place where people had gathered to pray. Can you imagine the celebration that occurred when Peter showed up? Peace came over the church. They saw God act in a mighty and powerful way. God did the impossible.
What if today we decided to do less talking, posting, complaining, and venting and focused more on praying? What if we did like the early church and prayed earnestly as we head into this toxic and partisan election season? What if we asked God to do the impossible – unite our city and nation and bring peace? What if…?
Here are some practical ways you can pray:
J17 Ministries has initiated the #PrayForTheUSA prayer movement. It is a very specific call to pray…
This call is NOT for prayer that a specific candidate or party wins or loses the election. Learn more here and join the movement!
10 Days of Prayer for Tucson
4Tucson is sponsoring a 10-Day prayer meeting for Tucson. It starts Friday, September 18th. We are praying for God’s kingdom to advance, for supernatural unity in God’s church, and for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Click here to find out more.
We encourage you to intentionally pray in the upcoming weeks. God hears us, and it changes our hearts in the process.
I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning. That’s rare for me. I’m tired. I have some people asking for help that I can’t help the way I wish I could. There are some challenges I’m facing that easily discourage me. They weigh on me. But, I’m not alone. Everyone one of us has battles. Most of those battles are actually inside us. Our battles are not primarily with others or against situations. The real battles form out of what we think and what we believe. We look at Facebook or Instagram posts and compare ourselves to others and think we fall short. Our overeating, addiction to porn, or whatever ultimately comes out of what we think and believe. What’s your battle right now?
The great Apostle Paul knew all about spiritual battles first hand. He writes about it in 2 Corinthians 10:1-6. He starts by saying: For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds (NIV).
We are in a spiritual kind of war. So, we have to use the weapons that will help us win our spiritual battles. We have divine power to break down the strong temptations or lies in our head that want to destroy us. That’s one reason why we are in our Engage teaching series on Sundays. In prayer, we engage the divine power of God to do what only God can do. We must never think we can, on our own, defeat the trickery, lies, and power of the evil one. We need divine power. In prayer, we engage the God of the universe who is all-knowing, wise, trustworthy, and who will always act for us and not against us. So ask for help. Pray bold prayers seeking God’s intervention.
The only real power our enemy has over us is the power of the lie. So Paul says, “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” We have to challenge the things we think and believe, as they are the root cause of our battles. Does God form our thoughts, or do they come from another source? The evil one wants us to buy his lies about ourselves, about this world, about God, and just about everything. The lies abound! Here’s just a few: “You can’t trust people!” “This is just a private sin that won’t hurt anyone!” “This sin isn’t as bad as…” “I don’t need to be in a small group; I can grow spiritually on my own.” “I have to do what feels right and authentic for me.” “I can never forgive ____.” “God can never use someone like me.” The lies are endless.
The lies we believe are often the root or foundation of the struggles we face and the trouble we get ourselves into. We fight the lies with God’s wisdom and truth that can and will demolish the damage the evil one wants to inflict. That was the very process I engaged this morning. I had to “take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ.”
What battle are you fighting right now? What weapons are you using to win your battle? Engage God. Let God’s true words about you or the situation carry the day. Take captive every thought that is not of God and not aligned with the Bible and let God demolish the lie so you can find victory in the battle for your mind and your thoughts.
New Series – Engage
Sunday we started a new series called Engage. Sunday was the first day our two campuses (East and Southeast) taught the same series and message! In this series, we want to go deeper and further in our desire and ability to engage with God. The focus is on prayer, but prayer is the means to actually engage with God.
Why We Pray
There was a part of my teaching where I had asked why we pray. I suggested that the best “Why?” is simply to engage God. What if you and I prayed not to influence God but have God influence us and our circumstances? That is one of the most significant reasons to pray and experience God. That’s what “praying continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17) is about – asking God to influence our thinking, our attitude, our actions and responses, our conversations and words, and our decisions all throughout our day. If you missed the message this weekend, you can watch it On Demand or on our website.
30 Day Prayer Challenge
Also, I want to encourage you to sign up for our 30-day prayer challenge. Each day we’ll send you a prayer reminder that fits the theme of the message each week. The reminder is to help us all be more aware and intentional to pray during this series to deepen, expand and increase our prayer lives. On your phone, text “Praying” to 31996 to get your daily reminder.
We ended our service Sunday with a song titled Nothing Else by Cody Carnes. I’m copying some of the words here to help us continue to reflect…
I’m caught up in Your presence
I just want to sit here at Your feet
I’m caught up in this holy moment
I never want to leave
Oh, I’m not here for blessings
Jesus, You don’t owe me anything
More than anything that You can do
I just want You
I’m sorry when I’ve just gone through the motions
I’m sorry when I just sang another song
Take me back to where we started
I open up my heart to You
I’m sorry when I’ve come with my agenda
I’m sorry when I forgot that You’re enough
Take me back to where we started
I open up my heart to You
Nothing else, nothing else
Nothing else will do
I just want You