“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.
You may be going through the worst storm of your life — a financial struggle, business troubles, slander, family problems or a personal tragedy. Restlessness keeps you awake at night, a cloud hanging over you. When you awaken, the dull ache is still with you and you cry, “God, how long will you allow me to go through this? When will it end?”
Let’s look for a moment at Israel’s experience at Rephidim: “Then all the congregation of the children of Israel set out on their journey from the Wilderness of Sin, according to the commandment of the Lord, and camped in Rephidim; but there was no water for the people to drink … And the people thirsted there for water” (Exodus 17:1-3). The Scripture shows that God led Israel to the driest place in the whole wilderness — no stream, no well, not a trickle of water — where he allowed them to grow thirsty. The people complained to Moses but God had a plan! He was not going to allow them to die; he had a reservoir of water that he had prepared long before.
Why had God done this? He was waiting for a response of faith from Israel. He was saying, “I have taken you through all these things but you have refused to learn. Will you trust me now?”
Many Christians are being tested and tried right now because of unemployment. Their savings are dwindling and the situation looks hopeless. Others are enduring various forms of suffering. It is never easy. These faithful, anxiety-ridden people come to church and raise their hands in praises to the Lord. They smile and hug their brothers and sisters in Christ, yet they go through awful pain and insecurity.
Beloved, one reason your trial is prolonged is because God wants you to approach him with childlike trust and confidence. When a spiritual dryness sets in, God wants you to look to him: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord” (Jeremiah 17:7). If you put your total trust in his Word and his faithfulness, God has promised to bless you — and he cannot lie!
Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt and when they came to the Red Sea, the leader held his staff out over the water and throughout the night a strong east wind divided the sea. The water stood up in a wall on each side so that the Israelites could cross over on dry land. When the Egyptians pursued, the waters overwhelmed them and drowned them all. Read the account in Exodus 14:15-31.
Moses and the children of Israel rejoiced in the Lord, with his sister Miriam leading the dancing (see 15:20-21). But even after this tremendous victory, it wasn’t long before adverse circumstances caused the people to complain against Moses and Aaron. Sadly, most of these people who had endured the plagues of Egypt and praised God for deliverance at the Red Sea did not make it to the Promised Land. Instead, they perished in a miserable wilderness — all because of doubt.
Beloved, our Promised Land today is Jesus Christ alive in us. He is our inheritance! As we rest in his faithfulness, we enjoy his presence. God never intended for us to become stuck in a wilderness of emptiness and drought. Through his Son, he has provided for us abundant life — a life free from worry and anxiety if we put our trust in him.
Right now you might be in the fight of your life. The enemy is coming at you on all sides and even though you know you have a mighty God on your side, all you can see is the battle in front of you. You’re asking God, “Why did you bring me into this mess? I can’t make it.”
The Word assures you that you can enter into a restful place in Christ’s fullness. “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:22). God wants you to come into a place of peace. He wants you to truly rest in his power and ability to deliver you from all snares, trials and temptations — if you will trust him!