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From Jim’s Heart—Praying in the Midst of a Busy Life

The prayer life of the apostle Paul is most evident in the epistles he wrote while in prison. Some people assume that confinement in prison gave Paul little choice but to pray. They would imagine Paul saying something like, “Oh well, since I have nothing else to do, I guess I’ll pray.” Not true!

Busyness is often used as a favorite excuse not to pray. But in reality, it’s not our schedule that keeps us from praying. It’s our failure to understand the importance of prayer. When we don’t pray, it’s because we don’t believe it’s all that necessary. Instead of utilizing the power of prayer to make an impact, we try to have an influence through physical activity. We roll up our sleeves and get busy, turning to our own power instead of God’s power.

A commitment to prayer and some muscle are needed among Christians today. In fact, Paul himself would wholeheartedly agree. He definitely spent a lot of time “in the trenches” confronting sorcery, angry mobs, and hostile religious leaders. But that didn’t divert his thinking about the need for prayer. Martin Luther, the great church reformer, captured the essence of Paul’s prayer philosophy with this paraphrased quote: “My schedule is so busy today that I need to spend more time than usual in prayer.”

Paul’s—and Martin Luther’s—message to us is, “Don’t let a busy life keep you from prayer. You need it!” And, like the people Paul prayed for, others need your prayers as well. And who knows? Maybe the reason your own life is so busy and often out of control is because you haven’t taken time to stop and pray to discern God’s priorities in your life.

Trust in God’s Help with Prayer

Through the act of prayer you can seek the heart and mind of God in your difficult situations. God gives us help and answers when we pray. He gives us this assurance in difficult times:

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weakness. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered… He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God (Romans 8:26-27).

In picturesque words we learn that God Himself gives us help… and hope! The Holy Spirit literally comes to our “rescue” in our trouble. He ministers to us by lending His helping hand in pleading and interceding to God in our behalf. In simple language, He groans and sighs for us in prayer.

What good news! When you don’t know what to pray for, how to pray, or what words to use, the Holy Spirit does! And He takes over and expresses your requests for you. He intercedes for you by appealing to the only Person who can help you—God Himself. The Spirit’s “groaning” or “sighing” in prayer to God the Father for you becomes effective intercession on your behalf.

Thank God that you are not left to your own resources to cope with your problems.

From Jim’s Heart—At the Center of God’s Will

Do you know what I believe is the icing on the cake of obedience? What I believe to be one of the most compelling reasons for choosing to obey God? It is this: Obedience leads to a powerful, confident life. When you are obedient, and when you allow yourself to be led by God through the unexpected, you then have a confidence based on the fact that you know you are exactly where God wants you to be. You won’t find yourself doubting the circumstances in your life or the direction things are going. You will have the inner peace and joy that come from knowing you are at the center of God’s will!

Lord, thank You for leading me to the center of Your will. Help me to see Your hand in everything that comes my way as I follow You today. Amen.

Don’t Lose Your Mind

I don’t want to oversimplify this, but how we use our mind is our choice. To decide to use your mind to know God, learn His Word, study His truths, and trust His promises requires perseverance and discipline. Living out God’s plan for your life requires that you use godly thinking, wisdom, and guidelines. Matthew speaks to that very issue in 12:34…

Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.

The question is, “What fills your heart?” And I’m asking myself that same question. If you want to live a godly life, you have to put godly things in your mind. The Bible says the peace of God will guard your heart and mind through Christ (Philippians 4:7). Seek God. Seek His peace. And give your thoughts to God’s control and influence. Feed your mind; don’t lose it!

Jesus, Your peace is like nothing else. It is everything. Protect my heart and mind so that I can walk and talk as a believer who speaks out of the abundance of a godly heart. Amen.

From Jim’s Heart—Prayer Is an Act of Faith

When you pray to God, you are talking to someone you can’t see. So prayer is the purest form of faith, which is described as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). Yet the faith of prayer is not based on vivid imagination or wishful thinking. It is based on the promises of God found in the Bible.

When the apostle Paul was arrested and taken by ship to Rome, he was chained to a Roman soldier the entire way. When a severe storm hit their small boat in the Mediterranean Sea, all hope seemed to be lost. But Paul stood before the wet and discouraged passengers and crew and reported that an angel of God had appeared to him declaring that he, Paul, would go on to stand before Caesar. With confidence Paul exhorted, “So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me” (Acts 27:25).

We don’t have angels standing beside us today to reassure us when things get rough, but we do have the assurances in the Bible, which are 100 percent faithful and true. Therefore, you can pray with confidence and in complete faith that God will keep the promises He has made to you.

Pray for Wisdom

One of my passions is the small-but-powerful book of Proverbs. That’s because Proverbs is considered to be “the wisdom book” of the Bible. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve already made enough mistakes to last a lifetime. Frankly, I would like to make as few as possible between now and my last days on this earth. So I can use all the wisdom I can get!

Proverbs 1 reminds us that you and I can…

…attain wisdom and discipline,
…understand words of insight,
…acquire a disciplined and prudent life,
…learn what is right and just and fair,
…gain prudence, and
…increase in knowledge and discretion.

How can this be? Because all of these elements of wisdom are available from the book of Proverbs and from the whole of God’s Word. We can also gain wisdom from wise people, teachers, and counselors, and from experience. Please take advantage of all of these means for increasing in wisdom.

Do you want a surefire, wide-open, readily accessible avenue for getting wisdom? All you have to do is ask God for wisdom through prayer. It’s as simple and straightforward as that.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him (James 1:5).

From Jim’s Heart—A Heart That Praises

What usually comes to mind when you think about David? If you’re like me, you tend to think about David’s “macho” achievements. He fought a lion and a bear. He felled a giant. He was a mighty man of war, conquering many foes. He was feared by his enemies. He was one of the greatest kings of the ancient world. There’s no doubt David was a man’s man, a leader’s leader, and a warrior’s warrior.

And yet David was a man with a tender heart toward God. He was a man who was constantly praising his God. He even characterized himself as “Israel’s singer of songs,” saying “[God’s] word was on my tongue.” David was one whom “the Spirit of the Lord spoke through” (2 Samuel 23:1-2).

David may not have always done things right, but God was never far from his thoughts…

I will give thanks to the Lord… and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High (Psalm 7:17).

Sing to the Lord, you saints of his; praise his holy name (Psalm 30:4).

Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him (Psalm 33:1).

I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips (Psalm 34:1).

David sets a good example for us; doesn’t he? He shows us that a man or woman after God’s own heart is a person who is not afraid to verbalize love for God. David’s heart uttered praise upon praise throughout his day.

You too, as a person who loves God, should not hesitate to praise God. Whether while working at your job, driving out on the freeway, getting some exercise, or relaxing at home with your family, you can offer up praise to God in your heart and with your lips (Hebrews 13:15).

Shining Lights

Do you know what your purpose is? Can you boldly declare, “For this I was born” and know what the “this” is? Jesus could! He clearly stated, “For this cause I was born” when He was questioned by Pilate (John18:37). Jesus went on to say, “I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.”

Are living out your purpose for God’s good pleasure without murmuring and disputing? Are you studying and taking God’s instructions to heart and being obedient so you can discover your great purpose in Christ? You have been given the gift of being a child of God. Your heavenly Father wants to see you shine for Him. For this cause… for this privilege… you were born—to shine light into the world.

Do all things without murmuring and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life.
Philippians 2:14-16

From Jim’s Heart—God’s Strength Is Available to You!

You are called to live boldly by different standards—God’s standards. Yes, it will be difficult, but such hardship is nothing compared to what you’ll gain—God’s blessing for your obedience and a clear conscience for doing what is right.

The secret of obedience is that what God expects you to do, He also enables you to do. The strength to obey Him comes from Him. You just need a willing heart.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” (Ephesians 6:10). God has made this strength available to you, and it’s pretty remarkable. Paul spoke of “the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power” (Ephesians 1:19).

It’s a fact—The power of God triumphs over all else. And you have access to it. How? Through full dependence upon Him, “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit” (6:18).

Lord, this is amazing! When I say yes to You—and mean it—You give me the strength to follow through. Thank You for the “exceeding greatness” of Your power in me! Amen.

From Elizabeth’s Heart – Counting on God’s Grace and Peace

You, my friend, are a truly special woman! Do you know how I know? Because you are pursuing grace and peace by spending time in these devotions and in God’s Word. When God lives within you, His Spirit causes you to yearn for a gentle calm in your life.

Are you struggling or suffering? Are you facing a painful loss? A common response women have when they’re first asked to contemplate a “gentle and quiet spirit” is to declare, “But I can’t be like that! I can’t remain calm when there’s trouble.” This is true, if you are relying on your own strength. But when you appropriate God’s great enablers—His grace and His peace—you can achieve gentleness and calmness even during hard times. You just need to:

  • Count on God’s grace. It’s given. It’s here. It’s available.
  • Pray for God’s grace. Your awareness of God’s grace will expand when you give more things and more of you to Him.
  • Get on with life. Regardless of your struggles, it’s possible—and important—to have something positive to show for your suffering, including a greater knowledge of how much God loves you, cares for you, and provides for you.

It’s encouraging to think about God’s grace and peace. They are two of the loveliest, most restful gifts He bestows on us.

Grace to you and peace be multiplied.
1 Peter 1:2