First, the children of God are known by their actions:
- They love each other (1 John 4:7).
- They believe in Jesus (1 John 5:1).
- They love God and keep his commands (1 John 5:2).
As a result, children of God receive certain blessings:
- We have victory over the world (1 John 5:4).
- We have an intimacy with the Father by which we can call him “Abba” (Romans 8:15).
- We become fellow heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17).
- We await future blessings when Jesus returns (Romans 8:19-21).
So…are you a child of God? How have you been blessed as a result?
Another common obstacle to prayer is an enslavement to “feeling.”
“I don’t feel like it.”
They assume that prayers are only efficacious when they rise from an eager and emotional heart. We should keep our appointment with God, whether we feel like it or not. The meek submission of our will deepens our surrender; our resolution to engage in prayer strengthens thought control.
Faith, not feeling, measures the efficacy of prayer.
There are many obstacles to having a strong prayer life and none more employed and observed than the lack of time or busy-ness. It’s a shallow obstacle because we clearly find time for less important things–entertainment and friends. We rarely use that excuse meaningfully to excuse our lack of time spent with those closest to us. Christ stole time from his sleep to pray. Just begin with 15 minutes/day and try to grow that over time.
Often I hear about people “church shopping.” This makes a lot of sense on one hand because when someone moves to a new community they should probably check out a few churches to see where they might fit best or where the doctrine/beliefs match their own. Sometimes this might also happen to someone who has experienced severe conflict in a church which makes them uncomfortable to return and continue there. But the language “shopping” with church really is not the best approach to finding a church home. It implies that the individual is a consumer looking for a church that will “meet my needs.”
I’m glad people want to find a church home. But looking for a church that meets my needs is an unbiblical statement. The church becomes a product to consume. “We loved the children’s programming but the sermons are really boring.”
God has called us to be spiritual contributors. The church does not exist for us. We are the church, and we exist for the world. I am here to serve God and to love people. I exist to make a difference. God created me to be a blessing to others.
So ask yourself: Am I more of a consumer or contributor? If you are a Christ-follower, hopefully you are a valuable part of a life-giving church.Do you drop your kids off in the nursery (without ever serving there), drink some free coffee, enjoy the service, then pick up your kids and go home? If so, you’re a consumer.
On the other hand, do you use your gifts to make a difference? Do you invite people to your church? Do you pray faithfully for church leaders? Do you give consistently of your finances? Do you serve passionately? Then you’re more of a contributor.
I’m not trying to be mean or make you feel guilty. I simply want you to be honest with yourself. If you are using your life to be a blessing to others today, then later you will relish sharing the stories that God allows you to tell. If you’re more focused on yourself than serving others, you’re going to end up with many blank pages–lost blessings that you can find only by contributing what God created you to give to the world.
Why don’t true followers of Christ embrace the lifestyle of a Christ-centered disciple and disciple-maker?
- An inability to say “no.” Most Christians are too busy. We have allowed the world to set our life’s schedule. You can’t say “no” until you have a bigger “yes.” To have a bigger “yes,” you have to know God’s priorities from his Word, which also gives you the biblical principles to make wise decisions.
- Shortchanging your alone time with the Lord.
- Living beyond your means.
- Forfeiting the opportunity to give sacrificially.
- Neglecting to fast.
- Succumbing to sexual sin.
I struggle with some of these in different seasons so I understand the ease in which we slide out of being Christ-centered. But hopefully this list will remind us to re-orient ourselves and get “right” again with the help of the Holy Spirit.
What Jesus said in John 14:13-14 is hard for people to understand, yet believe. Jesus promises that he would answer our prayers no matter how great the request. This is not a blank check to satisfy our whimsical desires. There are parameters around Jesus’ promise from parallel passages.
We must ask:
- in faith (Matthew 21:22)
- in agreement with other believers (Mt. 18:19)
- in Jesus’ name (John 14:13-16; 16:23-26)
- according to His will (1 John 5:14-15)
- while obeying His word (Jn. 15:7; 1 Jn. 3:22)
- and bearing fruit for Him (Jn. 15:16).
The promise does not apply where we ask selfishly or with the wrong motives (Mark 10:35; James 4:2-3).
So what shall we request?
Jesus told us to ask for at least three things:
- The Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13)
- Workers in the harvest (Mt. 9:38)
- and wisdom (James 1:5).
Our greatest error is not that we ask inappropriately or that we ask for the wrong things, but that we don’t ask at all (Luke 11:9; Ephesians 3:20).