Advent Devotionals: Thursday, December 10

PRAYER: The foothold of kingdom breakthrough

“God does not act the same way whether we pray or not. 
Prayer exerts an influence upon God’s action, even upon his existence.”  
(Karl Barth)

Matthew 6:9-13, Mark 10:46-52

One of the ways, the most important ways to actively wait is to pray.  

Pete Greig, author of “How to Pray: A Simple Guide for Normal People”, tells us that we might not be able to control God, because he is God, but we can influence him.  The same goes for other people.  We cannot override their free will, but we can influence their choices through prayer.  

The Lord’s prayer begins and ends with adoration and praise, but the middle of the prayer is full of asks and petitions.  God wants us to ask him for what we need.  The story of Bartimaeus in Mark 10 reveals to us that it is not enough to sit quietly wishing for a miracle.  Jesus specifically asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” and the blind man answered, “Rabbi, I want to see.”  And Jesus healed him. 

God wants us to ask him for things, probably for many reasons.  But here are a few:
  • Asking is a relational thing to do.  God is relational. Merely wishing for something to happen does not build relationship. We need to communicate. Jesus was always more interested in the person and their needs than to just perform miracles ad nauseam.  
  • Asking is necessary because it is a vulnerable thing to do. We are admitting that we have a personal need.  This means we need to trust the person we are asking.  Trust builds our faith.
  • Asking is intentional.  It requires activating our wills and indicates that we are not robots but rather, human beings with needs and desires.  God loves it when his creation comes to him for help.

As you can see, all of these reasons are relationally-oriented.  God longs for a deep relationship with us.  Jesus makes it clear to his disciples in John 15 that they are his friends and they can ask for whatever they need in his name and it will be given.  When we pray in Jesus’ name, we are aligning ourselves with his will.  

We must pray in faith for the things we need. But remember our faith is not in faith itself.  God is not a genie where we give our three wishes, clap our hands and “Poof!” we are granted whatever we want.  Our faith is in the person of Jesus.  When we pray in Jesus’ name, we are praying to a person.  This makes it relational, taking into account the greatness of Who we are following and remembering his kindness and faithfulness to us.  Even in human relationships, we do not appreciate people who only communicate with us when they want something from us.  But oh how we love to give and bless those who desire to spend time with us and are interested in us. 

There is another aspect of prayer that we need to pay attention to and grow stronger in.  It is the area of kingdom-breakthrough prayers, interceding for others and for circumstances.  Richard Foster says, “We are not locked into a pre-set, deterministic future.  Ours is an open, not a closed, universe.  We are ‘co-labourers’ with God… working with God to determine the outcome of events.”

This is an astounding statement! To think that the God of the universe who is completely capable of orchestrating the outcome of any event in the universe, would prefer to have us bumbling and imperfect humans help him in bringing about healing and reconciliation to this world!

We must pray and practice God’s victory.  When God wants something done, he calls us to pray.  With our prayers, we are battling for the will of God. We pray from a place of victory as we live in between the resurrection of Christ and the return of Christ. 

Mark Sayers from Red Church, Australia preaches that it is time for the church to move from proficiency to supernatural power.  It is no longer enough to do good work competently and efficiently with smart and talented people.  We have hit a threshold.  We need spiritual breakthrough and this can only happen in the supernatural realm. But moving through this threshold requires humility.  God is calling his church to pray and co-labour with him to usher in his kingdom, bringing healing to our world until his return.  

Thanksgiving precedes the miracle.  Gratefulness is the humble practice that can bring about breakthrough.  When Jesus fed the 5,000, he took the bread and gave thanks first.  During the last supper with his disciples, Jesus broke bread and gave thanks. Prayer is the point where heaven and earth meet and it is the humble who will usher in the kingdom of God.  

As we look through church history, we see that the church was at its best, and God his most glorious, when his people sought him in humble, desperate, passionate prayer. 

“History belongs to the intercessors, who believe the future into being… By means of our intercessions we veritably cast fire upon the earth and trumpet the future into being.”
(Walter Wink, The Powers That Be)
REFLECTION:
  1. Do you believe that your prayers make a difference in God’s kingdom and in the world?  Why or why not?  Would you be willing to step out in faith and intercede on behalf of others and circumstances in the world?  
  2. What has been your experience of prayer?  How do you approach the Lord in prayer - do you see him as your Saviour deeply invested in your life or do you see him as a genie who will grant you your wishes?   What changes need to take place in your relationship with Jesus and how will you go about making those changes?  

PRACTICES:
  1. Morning Prayers of praise and gratitude. (Suggestion:  Write out your prayers)
  2. Evening Prayers - Examen. 
  3. Scripture Reading as assigned above.  Which passage stands out to you? Memorize it and carry it with you. 
  4. 24/7 prayer has an acronym to help us get praying.   P (Pause) R (Rejoice) A (Ask) Y (Yield) See handout for more information. 

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