The prayer that pleases God is very simple and easy to understand. The disciples said to Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). This request reflects an honest desire to learn to pray in a way that is pleasing to the Lord.
Many Christians pray only out of a sense of obligation, but prayer is not for our own welfare or relief, it is for the delight of our Lord. God tells his disciples, “When you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do … Do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him” (Matthew 6:7-8). In other words, “When you come into my presence, focus your attention on fellowship with me — on getting to know me.”
Too much of our prayer time is spent asking God for a better job, a bonus, food, clothes and other necessities. But our Father already has made provision for our daily needs: “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on” (Matthew 6:25).
The Bible says, “Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:4). Delighting in the Lord doesn’t mean simply being happy in his presence; it also means being able to say, “I long to be with him because all others leave me empty and unfulfilled. Only Jesus can touch my deepest needs.”
Coming to the Lord with delight does not mean we cannot come to him during times of sadness and grief. During such times we prefer to be with him above all others. We were made for fellowship with him, even in our heaviest times.
Do you love to be with him? Do you prefer him above all others? Ask God to put in you a heart that is easily wooed to his presence. And then listen closely to his Holy Spirit during your times of communion with him. He will reveal his Word to you in new ways as he teaches you to pray.
Jerusalem is a symbol of the city of God, or God’s dwelling place. Rebuilding the walls was important because it served as a sign to Israel’s enemies, showed God was with his people, and revealed his blessing.
When Nehemiah heard that the walls of Jerusalem were still broken down more than a half-century after the completion of the rebuilding of the temple, he “sat down and wept, and mourned for many days” (Nehemiah 1:4). Then he fasted and prayed as he formulated a plan to remedy the situation.
Once the walls were rebuilt, the symbols of God’s presence among his people were restored and the people’s hearts were renewed in faithfulness and gratitude. Overwhelming joy flooded their hearts when the glorious rebuilding was completed. It was an important moment in Israel’s history, a cause for great celebration and heartfelt thanksgiving.
In an individual’s life, rebuilding the walls is a picture of reestablishing strength. We have all met people whose defenses have crumbled away. They may even be derelicts, utterly helpless and hopeless. But in his grace, God reaches down and brings them to a place where he can reconstruct their lives. They are transformed and restored to a place of strength, power and purpose.
One thing you can be sure of: when you start to rebuild the strength of your life, you will find forces immediately rise against you, both from within and outside of yourself. Resistance to God’s work in your life will be swift but when God is on the move, he causes glorious things to happen. And it doesn’t take him long to accomplish his restoration of your spirit. He only asks you to take your eyes off your circumstances, because Jesus has already won your victory.
God invites you to bring him the source of your brokenness — your hurt, your anger, your disappointment — because he wants to address it and heal it, through intimate communion with him. Ask the Holy Spirit, “Lord, be the voice of Nehemiah to me in my condition. Confront the sins I tolerate and restore my spiritual walls. Then heal the source of it all — my loneliness, my depression, my hurt. I trust you to keep me inside my safe walls, Lord. You are my victory in everything and I praise you!”
“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26).
The complexities and heartaches of life can overwhelm us to the point that we cannot find words in prayer. Even the apostle Paul experienced this dilemma; he talks about “our weakness” and acknowledges that “we do not know what we ought to pray for.” But the Spirit of God dwells in us to help us pray beyond our limited ability, for “the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will” (Romans 8:27). Though intelligible words are not always employed, the Spirit assists us in meeting the conditions of asking according to God’s will — the secret of all successful prayer. We need to believe this and be open to the present-day ministry of the Holy Spirit.
For each person who fails to pray because of mistaken notions about God’s sovereignty, there is another who prays a great deal but from the wrong motives. So James adds this caution: “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3).
Today people are “claiming” things that were never promised to New Testament believers while ignoring the spiritual power and grace the world desperately needs. The first rule of prayer is not “faith,” but whether the request is according to God’s will. Let’s not forget that the Lord still sits on his throne as ruler of the universe!
Even though it can at times be difficult to discern God’s will, he will teach us how to pray as we humbly wait for guidance. Two powerful promises can give our prayer life a fresh start so that we can begin praying regularly with confidence:
May God’s promises propel your prayer so that you are no longer afraid to ask and receive great things from him.
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.
“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Let the redeemed of the Lord say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy, and gathered out of the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. They wandered in the wilderness in a desolate way; they found no city to dwell in. Hungry and thirsty, their soul fainted in them” (Psalm 107:1-5).
Here is a classification of people who once knew the fullness of the Lord and at some time in their life discovered glorious deliverance. But now they are in a solitary wilderness, wandering alone, and they can‘t find the city. “The city” in the Old Testament refers to Zion, which represents God’s true church. Today, of course, that city is the true body of Christ; those who worship in spirit and in truth. And this class of believers described above is comprised of those who cannot seem to find “the city.” They no longer attend church because they can’t seem to find a place of worship that meets their needs.
The Lord has commanded: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). Multitudes of starving Christians go from church to church trying to find their place. In the end, many give up even seeking a good church because they are determined there are none.
It’s true that it is hard to find churches worth attending today. In fact, that is a common complaint among believers. But rest assured that God has his body of believers all over the world; those who share a bond in the Spirit. If you cry out to him, he will miraculously bring like-minded Christians to you where you can enjoy fellowship, even if it is a small group. This is important, because without fellowship with a true body of Christians, you can end up cold and lonely, and in danger of leaving your first love for the Savior.
Beloved, be bold in asking the Lord to guide you to your “city” of worship and he will be faithful to lead you. He takes great joy in seeing his children worshiping together.
“[Jesus] took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel” (John 13:4-5). Some devout Christians follow this example and make a custom of “foot washing” services. While this is certainly commendable, there is a deeper meaning to be learned from this practice. In fact, after Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, he asked them, “Do you know what I’ve just done to you?” (13:12).
Jesus was giving us an example of what he most desires of us — “taking up the towel.” There are several hidden lessons we can learn from our Lord as we look at this phrase. The Word tells us: “Through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). And, “[Submit] to one another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:21). We often gloss over certain truths in the Bible because we don’t understand their meaning and in doing so, we miss their power. How many of us really know what it means to serve one another in love? And how are we supposed to submit to one another in the fear of God? As we better understand what Jesus did in washing his disciples’ feet, we will understand these concepts of service and submission. You see, this means much more than merely taking orders from or being accountable to a higher authority. Rather, these glorious truths are unlocked only in the context of “taking up the towel.”
Another lesson Jesus taught when he washed the disciples’ feet was how to obtain unity of fellowship in the body of Christ. When Peter drew back from having Jesus wash his feet, the Lord said, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me” (John 13:8). Jesus was showing his mercy and love through washing away Peter’s feelings of worthlessness, anguish and despair.
In washing the dirt off the disciples’ feet, Jesus was also teaching the comfort of transgressions removed. Many Christians today are in the same condition as Peter, after being overtaken by a sin. If you want to be merciful — to take up the towel to restore a brother or sister — you don’t need to know the details of their sin. Jesus did not ask any of his disciples how they got dirty, he wanted only to accomplish their cleansing. His love for them was unconditional, just as it is for you. And just as it should be for those we encounter with his love.