Archives for posts with tag: prayer

We’ve all heard the expression, “Pray for sunshine, prepare for rain.” At first glance this seems to be what might have happened with the believers in Acts 12 when they gathered in Mary’s house to pray for Peter’s release. Perhaps they were praying but didn’t really expect a positive outcome.

But something miraculous did actually happen and when Peter showed up at the house where they were meeting, having been released by an angel, everyone thought the girl who had seen him outside was insane.

Is that really what happened? Maybe. But maybe we’ve have been a little harsh on those early believers and here are some reasons that might be the case:

  1. The text does say that the believers were praying “earnestly for Peter” (12:5), but in 12:12 it simply says that “they were praying.” It is possible that by then their prayer had evolved from praying for Peter’s release to praying for themselves?

Consider this: it was now the eleventh hour, the night before Peter was supposed to be presented to the religious leaders. His death was imminent and the believers now had to think about their own fates. So they took the unusual step of locking their door. They knew they were next, they were exhausted, not knowing where to turn. Perhaps they were now praying primarily for wisdom on what to do next? Or for strength to endure to the end?

  1. The believers had good reasons to think that Peter may have already been executed. Herod Agrippa had inherited malevolent genes from his grandfather, Herod the Great. He had already passed James, John’s bother, through the sword. To please the religious leaders, he was going to kill Peter next.

When the servant kept insisting that Peter was at the door, some people said, “It is his angel.” There was a traditional belief that when a person died, his “angel” (guardian angel?”) paid a visit to his/her friends. This would be another indication that the believers may already have thought that Peter was dead.

Now it wouldn’t be the first time in history that believers prayed for something and were quite shocked that they actually got what they were praying for, but I am just not sure that this was one of those cases.

How about you?

Do your prayer requests evolve over time?

Do you think there is anything inherently wrong with praying against all hope?

Do you truly believe that “nothing is impossible with God?”

Do you remember a time when God miraculously granted a request that you and/other people were praying for?

And finally, what do you think is the meaning of Mark 9:24, when the father of a demon-possessed boy said, “I believe, help me with my unbelief”?

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

Advertisements

Prayer series
You could say that prayer made Daniel fit for a palace. He was taken to Babylon as a refugee – a poster child for the Babylonian re-education program of the Hebrew people, initiated by the King Nebuchadnezzar.

Right off the bat Daniel had to rely on prayers because he chose to reject the King’s diet. He and his friends asked for water and a meager sampling of vegetables when they could have feasted on wine, meat and other decadent stuff from the King’s kitchen. Well, they prayed and God blessed their diet. (Don’t you wish that’s how it worked today?).

Because of his bold prayers, I believe, Daniel rose to the attention of the King and eventually became an influential man in all of Persia for years to come. His enemies took notice and tried to bring about his demise, but Daniel was astute. I imagine they tried to throw all kinds of appetizing things before him, but Daniel had the self-control thing down pat.

So they decided to try to catch him in matters of his religion. It was a simple proposition: Babylon was infested with gods for all kinds of occasions while Daniel believed in only one God. If they could mandate Daniel to pray to one of their gods or even to the king himself, and he refused, it would be check-mate. But their plan went up in smoke, together with them, because God honored Daniel’s faithful prayers with his window open even when it was insane to do so.

Throughout the book that carries his name Daniel keeps occupied with affairs of the Kingdom and prayer. He interprets dreams and prays. He advises kings and prays. He studies Scriptures and prays. He fasts and prays. So much praying that I think no one else except Jesus should use the title “prayer warrior.” No wonder this guy outlived so many kings who ate so much better than he.

Daniel’s prayer of confession in chapter 9:4-19 should be a model for all of us. A moving prayer that showed concern not only for his own sins but for those of the entire nation of Israel. Daniel was a global prayer warrior. He prayed and at times the response was supersonic, like in chapter 9 when the Angel Gabriel appeared to him at the speed of light. But he also prayed when the response was delayed.

Fascinating. In chapter 10 Daniel starts praying and fasting for three weeks. He also says that he didn’t even shower during that time – yuck! Apparently, Daniel had decided to continue this until he got a response. Bold. Well, three weeks later the response came in the person of the Archangel Michael. Daniel’s prayer seemed to be climbing to higher echelons of heaven since now it was an Archangel, not simply an angel, who was dispatched to answer him.

But the amazing thing is that when Michael sees Daniel in a vision he says that he had been dispatched the moment Daniel had started to pray but it took him three weeks to get to Daniel. No, Michael was not overweight and his wings didn’t experience a wardrobe mal-function. He was opposed by a spiritual entity he calls “the Prince of Persia.”

Whatever the “Prince of Persia” was he was a force to be reckoned with. But in the end God prevailed and Michael delivered the answer to Daniel’s prayer. And the moral of the story is that prayer is first and foremost a spiritual activity. If our prayers have any spiritual teeth, the enemy will oppose them. But we must press on, persist, and boldly keep storming the gates of heaven. But remember: Daniel didn’t simply take a crash course on prayer. He didn’t just listen to a TED talk on the power of prayer. He had practiced his whole life. And when the time was right he also got to be involved in the battle for the survival of God’s people.

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Lead Pastor, Grace Church, Lititz, PA

Prayer series

Jesus once told a story about two men who went up to the temple to pray. We will look at that story this Sunday at Grace Church (Luke 18:9-14). Some may think it’s just another Pharisee-bashing tale Jesus was so famous for. “White-washed tombs,” “brood of vipers,” “foolish people,” “money lovers,” are just some of the choice words Jesus reserved for those characters. Do you ever feel sorry for them?

Well, you wouldn’t feel sorry for this particular one. This man epitomized everything that is wrong with the human race – prideful, prejudiced, self-absorbed, arrogant, pedantic, and worst of all, a fatally flawed predictor of God’s opinion of himself (small “h”). The man thought he had climbed the ladder of righteousness by his own merits. By doing a bunch of things, he was convinced he had made the cut and was not shy to break the news to God. Well, he couldn’t have been more wrong.

Away from the proud corner stood a tax collector who ended up stealing the show for his uncanny ability to see himself for who he really was – an incorrigible sinner in desperate need of God’s grace. He didn’t even dare to lift his eyes toward heaven. Too embarrassed to look around, he may not have noticed the Pharisee congratulating himself. With a heavy heart, he looked down while beating his chest and saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner with capital ‘S’!”

When the judges were asked to raise their grades for the two prayers, Jesus’ little placard read “10” for the tax collector and “0” for the Pharisee. In theological terms the tax-collector, not the “other one” went home “justified.” Some translations say “made right with God.” And there you have it – Jesus’ point in telling this story. No, it was not to slam the Pharisee. Rather, it was to remind us that one of the principal purposes of prayer is to have our hearts, mind, and body become synced with God.

Luke said as much in the heading of that story: Jesus told it to warn against the dangers of thinking that you are good enough to be accepted by God merely because of your good works and the dangers of pride that causes you to despise others who don’t fit the prescribed bill for a divinely drafted bill of spiritual health.

The lesson is that prayer will do you no good until you understand your place in the cosmos – that you are dust, irreversibly attracted to messes, and perpetually wanting to color outside the lines outlined by your Creator. Prayer will get you nowhere until you know that you are nothing and that without God’s righteousness you will remain there even if you don’t believe so, like the delusional Pharisee.

While we love to think that our prayers can move God’s heart, there will be no divine movement until our hearts are moved to repentance and forgiveness. God must move in us first before He will allow Himself to be moved by us. And that’s one of the main things that prayer should accomplish – a recurring struggle to set the record straight with God, and then a glorious rising in the newness of His freeing forgiveness, which He offers to us lavishly because of what His Son did on the cross for us.

“God, please make us right with you when we pray.”

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

Prayer series

I don’t know about you but I don’t want to be surprised when I come face-to-face with God. You start rattling off all the stuff you did in the Name of God, including persuasive preaching, powerful signs, miracles, etc., etc., and God looks at you and says, “Who are you?”

If that happened to me, I would probably drop dead again from a heart attack, if that were possible, of course. As surreal as this may sound, this is pretty much the picture is painted for us in Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’”

It’s a devastating thing, isn’t it, to experience “successful” ministry while at the same time excluding God entirely from the picture. But how do we know if our “success” is God-induced or man-made? What are the signs that we may be relying entirely on our own abilities to get things done for God? Is there a God-o-meter in our life and ministry?

I think there is and it is called prayer. Unfortunately in most churches today prayer is only another item on the menu of ministry opportunities, a “thing” a handful of people still do in an obscure corner of the church. This is not what God intended for His people. Prayer is supposed to be the foundation of everything we do in the church. It should not be an option but a mandatory discipline for the follower of Christ. If we ever hope to be involved in something truly divine, we must make sure that we not only invite but make room and allow The Divine to come in and take over, permeating every facet of every detail of everything we do.

Prayer is more important than preaching. It is more important than singing. It is more important than all the other programs (forgive me for using this word) put together in the church. Without it, our souls shrivel, we lose our true north, and start resorting to pathetic little gimmicks that do nothing to advance the mission of Christ to reach people without hope.

We are starting a new series at Grace Church called “Prayer: Moving God’s Heart” with a study in the life of Hannah. This woman teaches us that sometimes we have to reach the end of ourselves in order for us to see God show up in a big way. And maybe that is a major reason we shove prayer to a little corner in the church – we haven’t reached the end of ourselves. So should we ask God to get us there?

I don’t wish for that, but just like Hannah had a rival in her life – a second wife who put her through hell (forgive me the language), maybe we also need a Peninnah in our lives. Someone or something that will drive us to our knees!

I wish to God this were not necessary, but if this is what it takes, I am willing to receive it as long as God gives me the grace and strength to grow through it.

So is there is “Peninnah” in your life?

“Father, please don’t allow me to succeed if I am not doing it in the strength of your power. And if necessary, please bring a person or a situation in my life that will send me running to your throne because I have nowhere else to turn. And please let me stay there until you come through in a big way. Not to change my circumstances necessarily, but to change me. In Jesus Name, Amen.”

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade

New Life - Blog Banner

“Those who have turned the world upside down have come here.” (Acts 17:6). This was the accusation leveled against some early Christians not too many years from the time Jesus ascended into heaven. Paul and Silas were among them, in Thessalonica, roughly 1,000 miles from Jerusalem.

So the question is: How could this small band of Christians make waves so far away in such a short period of time? The answer may surprise you. They had met the risen Lord, were so desperate that their very survival depended on prayer and they were boldly sharing their faith even in the face of threats against their lives. Now that is a lethal combination.

Some will say that the disciples were only being falsely accused of turning the world upside down. In other words, since this is a rioting crowd, they were exaggerating. You ever heard of hyperbole?

Well, let’s consider that for a moment. Maybe this was a catchy phrase these rioters came up with, but they went further. They said, “They are defying Caesar’s decrees, saying there is another king, one called Jesus.” (Acts 17:7). Hmmm. That is really radical, if you want my opinion. It is subverting the order of things. It’s challenging the authorities and threatening the very fabric of a society which existed on the premise that the Emperor was the one existing power. Christians had become dangerous to society. That is as counter-cultural as they come, and the Church must reclaim this place in the world, even if it costs us a lot — or even everything.

Kim Jong Il was not afraid to say it. He considered Christians, “my most volatile enemies.” Christians threaten to change allegiances and dethrone human dynasties wherever they go. All they need to say is “I am the way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by me.”

From that perspective, Christians were being accused of committing a crime. But that wasn’t stopping them from speaking of what they had seen and heard. They were an unstoppable force for this Jewish Messiah who died and rose again. They had seen it with their own eyes and they couldn’t stop talking about it.

But then something happened in the last 2000 plus years. The Church of Jesus Christ became a sleeping giant. We’ve been cornered into silence and became only a semblance of the power that once was.

But not all is lost. We can still become bold, we can still rely on prayer, and we must. In fact, we must or we will become totally irrelevant and not even risk being falsely accused of turning the world upside down. Come to church this Sunday and find out how we recover that dream.

 

Pastor Ivanildo C. Trindade