Monday, December 21, 2015

How the Message of Christmas Changed My Prayer Life

Strange how a baby born in humility could be named Emmanuel, God with us (Matt. 1:23).

Strange that the “God with us” left this earth with the promise, “I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20).

Strange that the God who is the “Great King over all the earth” (Psalm 47:2) stooped to arrive in the womb of a teenager, be born in a stable, sleep in a manger, and be tortured on a cross.

This God who came to dwell among us was called Emmanu-el. “El” means “the powerful God.” When He humbled Himself to become a man, Emmanuel was the powerful God among us.

When we approach His throne, enter through the curtain, and kneel in His presence, we are stooping to the King over all the earth, the powerful God who stooped even lower so we could come.

Prayer is humility—following in His footsteps.

Prayer is bringing requests to a God who hears prayer from a humble heart (Isaiah 66:2).

Prayer is kneeling in the presence of the powerful God who is with us (Emmanuel) who welcomes our presence and listens to our voice.

Prayer is the message of Christmas believed in and celebrated every day of the year.

“The LORD of hosts is with us.” (Psalm 46:7,11)

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Monday, December 14, 2015

How Three Extra Minutes Changed My Prayer Life

I’ve never read the book, Too Busy Not to Pray, but often its title has flashed through my mind and convicted my heart.  The busier I am, the more I need to pray.

But because many of us have only windows of time here and there when we can enter our closets and kneel at His throne, how can we take advantage of those prayer times most effectively?

Recently, I learned the importance of three extra minutes.

Sometimes it’s less. Sometimes more. But my prayer life has changed.

When God gave instructions for building the Temple, the stairs leading up to the entrance were to be structured unevenly, so the worshipper was forced to take each step with caution, slowly and thoughtfully.

This is how we are to approach prayer. Not running into His presence, whipping out a prayer list, and rattling out our requests like a To-Do List.

We need three extra minutes—sufficient time to remind our hearts what prayer is all about and to acknowledge to the One we are trusting that He is much more to us than a friend and a loving Father.

When we pray, we’re entering a throne room, where a curtain has been pulled back so we can come boldly into the presence of the One who is waiting to hear our voice.

So I’ve been starting my prayers by reading others’ prayers. The Psalms. Out loud. As worship to the God who will be answering my prayers. And as a comfort to my heart as I remember who He is.

Think of yourself as a worshipper ascending the stairs slowly as you approach His throne. As you come, pray a Psalm, such as this one: “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God . . . I shall yet praise Him. The help of my countenance and my God.”  (Psalm 42)

The stairs are ascended now. Your heart is prepared. You can go through the curtain, kneel, and lay your requests before God.

We’re too busy not to pray.

But when we pray, let’s not be too busy.

Let’s give it three extra minutes.

“In this manner, pray:
Our Father in heaven.
Hallowed be your name. . .”  (Matthew 6:9)

Next post: How the Message of Christmas Changed My Prayer Life

Photo credit: Veri Ivanova (

Monday, December 7, 2015

How a Curtain Changed My Prayer Life

It’s 3:00 on Passover afternoon, following a darkness that could be felt.

With the light returned, the lambs begin to be slaughtered. Sin had to be covered, and only by their blood.

Suddenly, the sound of fabric ripping fills the temple courtyard. Something was happening to the giant curtain dividing man from God! Had someone entered the Holy Place? Was someone breaking into the Most Holy Place?

No one had entered.

No one touched the curtain.

God reached down and tore it in half.

God opened the way for man to come to His throne—the mercy seat—where we find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

Because that curtain was torn, prayer is the welcome of God, beckoning us to kneel before His throne in His presence and commune.

Prayer isn’t words hitting a stone wall, an iron ceiling, or even a 6-inch-thick fabric barrier.

Prayer is our spirits entering a throne room, opened by priceless blood.

“Having, therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus . . .
let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” (Hebrews 10:19,22)

Photo by Liane Metzler (

Monday, November 23, 2015

What to be Thankful for When You Can't Find Your Ivory Tower

I’ve been thinking of ivory towers lately.

Someplace terrorists won’t target, unborn babies are safe, and recreational marijuana isn’t legal.

Appropriately, this song comes to mind: “This world is not my home.”

But while I’m just a-passin’ through,” it sure would be nice to find an ivory tower to live in.

The Bible tells us very little about heaven—mainly what won’t be there.
                No tears.
                No sighing.
                No night.

And it leaves the rest to our imagination.

Imagine this:“There will be no more curse.” (Revelation 22:3)
                No terror attacks.
                No abortions.
                No drugs.

No more gossip, strife, impatience, unthankfulness.

Sin won’t exist.

While we live here, we will never find an ivory tower, because we can’t escape the problem of sin. Around us. Or in our own hearts.

If we did find an ivory tower, not one of us would fit there.

In Colossians, Paul tells us that out of everything there is to be grateful for, one thing sits at the top of the list.

Our Father has qualified us “to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.” (Col. 1:12)

We will fit in a place one day where there will be no more sin.

When you can’t find your ivory tower, be thankful for this.

“Giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us
to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.“ (Colossians 1:12)


Photo by Kelly Sikkema (from

Monday, November 16, 2015

How to Find Comfort in the Midst of Change

In this month of thanks, I’m thankful for seasons. I’m thankful that summer turns to autumn, and winter turns to spring. I’m thankful that change happens, and life’s seasons come and go.

More than that, I’m thankful that every season of life is in the hands of a powerful, loving God.

“My times [seasons] are in your hand.” (Psalm 31:15)

People come and go in our lives. Circumstances change. Life’s autumns turn to winter. Springs turn to summer. And life’s interchanges are often a mixture of joy, sighs, smiles, and tears.

But committing our lives into Someone Else’s care, as Jesus did in His dying breath, will keep us standing, walking on straight paths, and running the race set before us.

We can’t stop the changing seasons of life, but we can leave them in the hands of the One who planned them.

“He changes the times and the seasons.” Daniel 2:21

Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Luke 23:46

Click here to listen to the final lesson in the series on The Words from the Cross.

Photo courtesy of Tony Morrell