Prayers from Down Under

I was touched last week when I learned that Christians in Australia have committed to a week of prayer and fasting for the United States. God knows we need it! Even more than that, though, Australia has asked other nations to join them in praying for us. Last year they made a similar appeal, and 40 nations joined them. It humbles and heartens me to know that believers in other countries care about our country and what is happening here!

Ordinarily, I try to set aside time to intercede for our nation on America’s National Day of Prayer. But our friends down under will be praying of us a whole week, starting tomorrow, April 30. The week begins on the 152nd anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s historic call to repentance during the tragic days of America’s Civil War and ends on the National Day of Prayer, May 7. To learn more about Australia’s prayer initiative, go to:

I can hardly let them pray for a week straight while personally only setting aside time on one day! So I will be asking God how I can join them in praying for my nation, every day. Perhaps it will be specific cities (Baltimore comes to mind). Or events (presidential primaries are gearing up). Or groups of people (the news media are dear to my heart). Or perhaps He will give me a Scripture to pray over our nation. I don’t know. But I’m eager to find out.

What about you? Wouldn’t you like to join Australia and other nations and set aside special time each day this coming week to pray for our nation?

A Prayer for Answered Prayer

“May the LORD answer you … May the LORD answer all your requests” (Psalm 20:1, 5).

Recently I’ve started praying this Psalm of David for young people I know. That’s because there is nothing like answered prayer to nurture a young person’s—or any person’s—personal relationship with God and confidence with Him.

A teenager I know once kept very diligently a prayer journal. One column showed the date. Another column listed the circumstances. A third column showed specific prayer requests about those circumstances. The fourth column was titled “Date Answered.” The sad thing is, though there was page after page of requests, the “Date Answered” columns were all blank. I can’t say for sure, but I wonder if that experience has had an impact on that young person’s faith.

I do know that those columns weren’t blank because of a failure on God’s part. He hears our prayers. He answers! And I am confident that the prayers of children and teens are especially dear to Him. But we don’t always see His answers. He’s on a different time table than we are. And He works behind the scenes, responding to needs in His higher and greater ways (see Isaiah 55:8-9) than we would ever imagine. So it’s easy to miss His answers sometimes.

So I’m learning to pray for young people a bit more strategically than I have in the past. I pray that they will turn all their burdens into prayer. I pray that God will indeed answer them. And then, I am praying for spiritual vision—that He will give them eyes to see His answers.

I want to be able to pray Psalm 20 as a Psalm of victory over them:

May the LORD answer you when you are in distress; may the name of the God of Jacob protect you. May he send you help from the sanctuary and grant you support from Zion. May he remember all your sacrifices and accept your burnt offerings. May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. May we shout for joy over your victory and lift up our banners in the name of our God. May the LORD grant all your requests.

Jesus Loves ISIS Members

God gave me an interesting assignment this spring. He asked me to join a prayer initiative with other people around the world who are asking God to bring 1,000 ISIS members to Christ.

That’s a big ask. It feels like one of the biggest asks I’ve ever made, in fact. And yet, after praying for 30 days, my faith has grown. Even though humanly speaking, it’s seems impossible, with God, I know all things are possible. If He could save Saul, the persecutor of the church (Acts 9), then He can save ISIS soldiers and leaders. If He could cause holy fear and trembling to come over Jericho because of His marvelous deeds (Joshua 2), then He can cause holy fear and trembling to come over Mosul or Tikrit.

I used a simple 30-day prayer guide called “Jesus Loves ISIS Members”  (Jesus Loves ISIS) to lead me on this faith-stretching journey. Each day there was Scripture, a prayer theme, some worship songs to sing over ISIS (!) and sometimes a simple activity to do.

I simply followed the guide for each day. Some days I didn’t experience much. Others, I was surprised at the ways God met and encouraged me. A few times I wept while singing the songs over people trapped in darkness. One time God gave me a powerful picture to pray into—a picture of Jesus walking among thousands of robed men who were bowed to the ground in prayer facing Mecca.

About a third of the way into it, within the space of a week, two different people shared two different testimonies with me that gave me goosebumps. God is actually hearing these prayers! People in this target group are encountering Jesus! God is hearing our prayers!

So I invite you to join this prayer effort. We can feel so helpless in the face of horrifying news events. But prayer is more powerful than diplomacy or weapons ever could be. God hears our prayers. They matter. He is able to do more than we ask or imagine. So will you consider joining with me in asking?

For, Because, By

People like Brother Lawrence (The Practice of the Presence of God) and Frank Laubach (Letters by a Modern Mystic) challenge me. I want to live like those guys did, focusing on God every minute of every day.

I start well most mornings. Before the sun comes up, I usually have spent time with God and have a verse, challenge, or encouraging word I want to carry with me through the day. But usually by the time I get to work a couple of hours later, I’ve already lost that focus. Sure, with effort, I can sometimes call myself back. But I want to stay with God all day, every day, in uninterrupted communion! Try as I may, I don’t seem to be able to make that happen the way I want.

I think God may be helping me with this, however. Recently while reading in 1 Corinthians, a single verse jumped off the page at me. It’s this: “There is only one God, the Father. Everything came from him, and we live for him. There is only one Lord, Jesus Christ. Everything came into being through him, and we live because of him.” (1 Corinthians 8:6, GWT)

I read that over and over again, and as I did, another thought popped into my mind: “There is only one Spirit. We live by and keep in step with Him. (I learned later that this thought was a paraphrase of Galatians 5:25.)

Captivated by these truths, I wrote shorter versions in my journal:

God created me; I live for Him.

Jesus saved me; I live because of Him.

The Spirit empowers me; I live by Him.

Wow, that’s pretty much the gospel in a nutshell, I thought. And it is where I need to be focusing. If I live for God, because of Jesus, and by the Spirit’s power, that would be a fruitful life. That’s what I want, God!

It’s days later, and to my surprise I still find my heart returning often to this simple triad. It helps me worship God for making me and Jesus for saving me. And it reminds me to depend on the Holy Spirit to guide me and empower me for everything I do.

There’s still discipline required—this prayer is not a silver bullet—but as I repeat this prayer in my mind or under my breath, I do find myself focusing on God  more and more throughout the day. And that brings me—and my Father, I’m sure!—joy.

Journey to the Cross–April 5

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” (Rev. 5:12, NIV)

On this Easter Sunday we celebrate the most incredible event in the history of the universe—the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

Take a few minutes now and put yourself in the place of John who witnessed a breathtaking, almost indescribable scene in heaven:

Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. He came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song:

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”

Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”

The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped. (Rev. 5:6-14, NIV).

Read the passage again slowly, using your imagination and engaging your senses. Try to see, hear, smell, and feel what is happening. What does your heart want to do? What do you want to say to Jesus? Say it! Then rejoice with this great multitude knowing that Jesus has conquered sin and death forever!



Journey to the Cross–April 4

They said, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Christ of God, the Chosen One.” (Lk. 23:35, NIV)

Jesus had the most powerful prayer life of anyone who ever lived. He also was incredibly smart, influential, and gifted. If anyone has ever been capable of making things happen, it would be Jesus.

However, Jesus understood that prayer and spiritual gifts, resources and relationships, God-given talents and skills, are all to be used God’ way, for God’s purposes. They are not meant to be the personal property of an individual.

So, as Jesus faced an undeserved death, He did not call on His friends to defend Him—in fact, He told Peter to put away His sword. In spite of His own remarkable rhetorical skill, Jesus made no effort to persuade Pilate or the chief priests not to execute Him. Although His prayers stopped storms, fed thousands, healed the blind, and turned water into wine, He refused to use prayer for His own purposes. “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Mt. 26:53, NIV) He asked His disciples. Obviously He could. But the point is, He didn’t.

It’s not that Jesus wanted to be crucified. His anguished prayer in Gethsemane (Lk. 22:42) tells us that. It’s just that Jesus never wanted to live outside His Father’s will. He never acted on His own. He never used His powers for selfish purposes. Saving Himself was not His highest goal; being one with His Father was.

God has also given you spiritual gifts, talents, spheres of influence, skills, and the privilege of prayer. Does Jesus’ example of laying these aside in order to trust God and live out His purposes inspire you? Make you uneasy? Talk to Him about what you are thinking and feeling. If you need to, ask forgiveness for using what He has given you to “make things happen” for your personal benefit. Ask God to help you trust Him with His purposes for your life—then offer the gifts He’s given you back to Him to be used however He sees best.

Journey to the Cross–April 3

Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Lk. 23:34, NIV)

It’s easy to read Jesus’ forgiveness in a matter-of-fact way. But what if Jesus had not forgiven? Obviously, the entire human race would be in deep trouble. But let’s put aside what the withholding of forgiveness would mean for us for a moment. Think instead, of what it would have meant for Jesus.

This is an absurd exercise, to be sure, but there is a point, so try to stick with it. Suppose for a moment that in lieu of forgiving, Jesus just decided that He would not lash back at anyone who hurt Him; He’d not say anything mean, He’d not retaliate. Wouldn’t that be good enough?

Would it be? Consider what withholding forgiveness would have done to Jesus’ heart and soul. How would it have affected His freedom? How would it have affected the way He interacted with people? Before you read any further, stop for a minute and really try to think about this.

Like us, Jesus routinely interacted with people who misunderstood and criticized Him. Unlike most of us, during His last week of life He experienced the most traumatic abuse and injustice a person can experience. Apart from forgiveness—choosing to let people off the hook—Jesus (if it were possible) might have become bitter, depressed, or self-protective. He might have lost His winsome and generous spirit that enabled Him to accept and love people unconditionally.

It’s often quoted that failing to forgive is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. Jesus didn’t drink that poison. When Jesus forgave us, He gave us a priceless gift, no question about it. But He also was caring for His own soul. By truly releasing the people who hurt and disappointed Him, Jesus kept His heart innocent and pure. There was nothing inside Him to hinder Him from living in complete peace, joy, hope, and love.

Jesus gave us a good prayer on this topic: “Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.” As you pray this prayer today, ask God to reveal any unforgiveness that may be poisoning your soul. If He reveals something, ask Him for the grace to forgive as Jesus did. Do it with His help, and for the sake of your soul.


Journey to the Cross–April 2

Jesus said, “I am thirsty.” (Jn. 19:28, NIV)

Such simple, plaintive words: “I am thirsty.” Stay with those words for a while. Picture Jesus on the cross. If you dare, put yourself at the foot of the cross and look up at Him. Hear Him say those three words of most basic, human need. See Him looking into your eyes. How do you respond to His vulnerability? What thoughts go through your mind? What emotions stir your heart?

This Jesus who was forsaken so that you might be forgiven, who was condemned so that you might be accepted, was also thirsty so that you might have living water (see Jn. 4:7-13, 7:37-38). He invites you to dip into water that quenches thirst, gives life, cleanses, refreshes, comforts, and heals. What do you want to say to Him? About His thirst? His humanity? His offer of living water? His love for you? Your love for Him? Take time tell Him whatever you’re feeling and thinking.

Then, as you go through your day today, pay attention to your thirst. Before you reach for your water bottle or coffee cup, take a minute to remember Jesus in a way that will be meaningful to you—and to Him.

Journey to the Cross–April 1

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home. (Jn. 19:26-27, NRSV)

If Jesus asked you to take His widowed mother into your home, what would you say? Well, of course you’d say yes, right? But the truth is, Jesus is asking you—He’s asking all of us—to take care of lonely, vulnerable people around us, people who are so precious to Him. He says in Matthew 25:40, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Who do you suppose Jesus’ heart is aching for right now? If He were to ask you to reach out to someone He loves, who might that be? If you dare, ask Him to bring their faces into your mind’s eye. As He does, pray for them. And as you are willing, ask Him how you can love them in His name. Then, with the help of the Holy Spirit, take steps toward doing it.