Can I Pray For You?

Strangers in Starbucks.

A buddy on my boat.

A good friend in his office.

A client on the phone.

A pastor up a mountain.

A new acquaintance at a church meeting.

What do all these people have in common?  Well, I have had the privilege and pleasure of praying for them at various times over the past week.

It’s quite simple really.  I find myself talking with people who are facing challenges of all kinds:  starting a new business, moving cities, the rigors of everyday life, marriage troubles, job loss, health issues, stresses of all sorts…basically dealing with the stuff of life.  When we finish talking I ask a very simple, yet powerful question,

“Can I pray for you?”

I’ve decided as often as possible, and whenever appropriate, I will finish my interaction with someone by praying for them.  Most times these people are Jesus followers, but sometimes they’re not.  In all the times I’ve done this throughout the years I have only had one person say “no”.  So, I simply said that’s ok, and prayed for them at another time when I was alone.

Do you struggle sometimes with how you can make a difference, how you can be a kingdom builder, a marketplace minister?  Well, I’ve found this is a simple, yet profound and powerful way to touch people’s lives and facilitate the work of the Holy Spirit: care enough to ask questions and listen to people, then ask if you can pray for them.

Now, I’m not a prayer expert by any means, but I’ve had the privilege of being taught and mentored by men who are powerful prayers.  What I do know is this:  God responds to prayer.  By some incredible grace amidst His divine omnipotence, and omniscience the Lord of All has chosen to “limit” Himself to our prayers.

God has chosen to invite and engage us in His plans and purposes by asking us to ask Him.  Wow.  I know, it sounds crazy – part of how we partner with the Sovereign Lord in His purposes is to pray.  Listen, commune, and ask.

When we pray God moves.  When we pray the spirit realm shifts.  When we pray the purposes of God are released and things happen.  I’m no incredible man of faith and power, but many, many times people have said to me, “Wow, I really appreciated it when you prayed for me – my heart was really touched.”  Is that because of my awesomely orated prayerful expression?  No, my simple sentiments synergize with the all-powerful God who moves in the heart of the focus of my petition.

This is awesome men.  How can we make a powerful and profound impact in people’s lives?  Pray for them.  Ask them for permission to do so and do it right there out loud – let them hear you.  Don’t make a scene, be discreet, but be verbal.

So, what to pray?

Well, here’s what I do:  I try to pray scripture.  I thank God for how much He loves them, how He will never leave them, how they’re not alone, how the Lord will provide for all their needs – I affirm God’s care and love.  Then I ask the Lord to meet them where they are – whatever that may look like:  to provide encouragement, strength, hope, faith, resources, freedom, revelation, a job, etc.

I may do spiritual warfare and bring the cross of Christ between them and the strategy of the enemy.  I thank the Lord for this person and who He has created, crafted and called them to be.  I also always pray that God’s Kingdom would come and His will would be done in them and through them.

I will also listen in my spirit for something specific the Lord may be asking me to pray or share – a scripture, a picture, a lesson, etc.  Then I share that too.  So, I listen in my spirit for some direction from the Lord and I pray scriptures.  Simple really.  But the impact is profound because of the work of the Holy Spirit.

So guys, let’s go for it.  Let’s commit to engaging with and listening to people – friends, family, strangers, employees, co-workers, etc – and simply then love on them through prayer.  The miracle of prayer is what God does in the heart of the person for whom we pray – and that’s very cool to see.

This great adventure starts with a simple question, “Can I pray for you?”

Go for it.

Ephesians 6:18

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.”

James 5:16

“…the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”

Mark 11:24

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Check Your Engine Light

My engine light came on.

Don’t you hate it when that happens?!  It doesn’t tell you why it’s on, it just tells you there’s a problem.  Is it a big expensive problem, or a minor service issue?  You don’t know.

When my light came on I didn’t pay much attention to it because my “service due” message had been on for a couple of weeks.  My cynical self thinks it’s simply the manufacturers attempt to get me to go into the dealership and pay an exorbitant sum for them to scope out my car and tell me everything is ok.

I saw the engine light as the manufacturer ramping up the intensity of the message for me to take it in.  So, I ended up taking my car into my trusted mechanic, not the dealer, who scoped it all out and found no issues.  He determined the light was simply a reminder to change the oil – which I had done already – so he reset the light, checked out my brakes, charged me $79 and sent me on my way.

Perfect.  I was a happy camper.

Anne and I went on a driving holiday to the Sunshine Coast and the car worked perfectly.  No issues.

Then, when I got home the light came on again.  I quickly took it in for them to scope it out again.  Something about my turbo charger didn’t reach the required pressure level.  They reset the light and told me to bring it in if it goes on again.  It could mean nothing, or not, but they will have to do more tests to figure out what the issue is – if there really is one at all.

So here’s what I learned going through all this:  I was more concerned about getting rid of the engine light, than I was about fixing the issue.  To be honest, inside I was thinking,

“Just make it go away.  I don’t want to have to fix anything significant.”

And when I got back in my car and the light was off, I was strangely comforted by that.  Nothing had changed on the inside of my engine, the warning light was just gone, and I felt better.

I realize that I can approach life this way.  I want to get rid of whatever is making me uncomfortable instead of going deeper to uncover an issue that really needs to be addressed.

My dash light went on to tell me something needs to be addressed in my engine.  It didn’t come on to tell me to turn off the dash light.

Likewise, when something makes us very angry, for example, that’s a heart dash light telling us there’s something deeper going on.  Our reaction in that situation should not be to simply get rid of the anger, but to understand what’s going on inside us that’s causing the anger.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t believe that anger is necessarily sin.  Scripture tells us that God gets angry.  In fact, I have heard it said that we can tell something about our love for God by the things that make us angry.  Should we be angry with injustice and sin?  Yes.

However, anger we often feel is not righteous indignation, but our selfish reaction to not getting what we want.  Someone once said, “A man is only as big as the things that make him angry.”  So, when we feel the heart dash light of anger, we need to ask the Holy Spirit to help us to understand what’s going on in our hearts.

Is your reaction disproportionate to the stimuli?  If “yes”, then check what’s going on under your hood.  Ask the Master Mechanic to do the work needed to adjust your heart so you’re running well.  Sometimes we need some major work, and other times we need a little adjustment.

It’s not prudent to ignore your heart “engine” light.  What are you feeling?  It could be revealing stress, resentment, unforgiveness, unhealed wounds, agreements with lies, inappropriate beliefs, selfishness, self-centeredness, fatigue, a lack of gratitude, etc.  You need Jesus, the Master Mechanic, to scope you out and do the work necessary.

Check your engine light – regularly.

Proverbs 20:5

“The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.”

Proverbs 4:23

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Matthew 11:28-30

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Philippians 2:12, 13

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

Making Faith-Filled Decisions

How do you make decisions?

Not those small day to day decisions, but the big ones.  You know, those decisions that create some fairly significant ripple effects in your life: decisions about your job, your career, your home, your community, your relationships, etc.

Someone once said to me that we should not move forward in a major decision “…until we know, that we know, that we know this is how the Lord is leading us”

I disagree with that.

I believe the Lord sometimes is very gracious to us and speaks in a fashion that is undeniable.  When that which He is calling us to is of such a magnitude, significance, or sacrifice that we need to know beyond a shadow of a doubt this is indeed His calling, I believe He does speak to us and lead us undeniably.  Moses and the burning bush, Paul on the road to Damascus, Isaiah and his vision in the temple – these are all Biblical examples, amongst many others, of an undeniable call or leading by the Lord.

When the Lord calls us clearly and dramatically it actually requires less faith.  In those situations we know that we know.  However, there are many times in everyday life when the Lord’s leading in our lives is far less dramatic.  In the vast majority of decisions the Lord is more subtle in His leading; it takes more faith to follow Him then because we don’t really “know”, but we “believe” this is how He is leading us.

So, how do we make decisions in the absence of a dramatic and clear call?

Well, here are a few ways that I have sought to discern the Lord’s leading over the years:

  1. Prayer and scripture
    • Start by surrendering your heart and will to the Lord.  Declare that you want to do His will, not your own, even though you may not be that excited about what you sense He is saying to you
    • Ask Him to help you hear His voice and to give you wisdom
    • Seek wisdom through scripture and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal truth to you while you read
  2. Peace
    • Even in the midst of very intimidating decisions we must find the Lord’s peace.  Scripture encourages us to let the peace of God rule in our hearts – kind of like an umpire.  Is the peace of God indicating this decision is “safe” or “out”?  If you find no peace in your heart when you are going to make a certain decision, then don’t make it.  Find God’s peace.
  3. Desire
    • God puts desire in our hearts, so start by taking an honest look at what you want.  Be open with the Lord about what is in your heart.  Does this new situation line up with already existing desires you carry.  Or, has your heart shifted and you find yourself strangely open to something that you were not open to previously?  Now, keep in mind that desire can also come from the flesh, the world and the enemy so judge desire against scripture.
  4. Agreement
    • If you’re married you must walk through this process with your spouse – each of you seeking God’s heart, will and wisdom.  If after doing so you are not in agreement, then keep seeking and walking with Him until you come to agreement in Him.
  5. Counsel
    • Seek counsel from wise, Godly people.  Don’t just talk with anyone; seek input from people you know to be wise and Godly Christ followers.
  6. Previous words
    • Is what you are sensing in-keeping with what you believe the Lord has previously spoken to you?
  7. Visualize
    • When I am making a big decision I envision myself in that which I sense the Lord is leading me and gauge the state of my heart.  Am I growing in vision?  Am I excited?  Am I in faith?
  8. Stop light
    • I believe living in faith is like living life as a “green light” and waiting for a “red light” – in other words, moving forward until the Lord says stop.  So, once I get a few indications that this could indeed be what the Lord is saying to me I start to move forward and ask the Lord to put up a stop light if I am not hearing Him clearly.

Faith is not necessarily knowing that we know that we know “what to do”, but with a sense of uncertainty we courageously move forward knowing that the Lord loves us, leads us, directs us, guides us, counsels us, watches over us, gives us wisdom, provides for us and will never leave us.

Wow, in light of who the Lord is we can afford to take risks – making courageous, faith-filled decisions journeying with Jesus deeper into His will in us and through us.  Indeed, this is the only way we have been called to live.

We are called to live by faith, and therefore make faith-filled decisions.  Faith is not knowing all the answers and not believing without proof, but trusting without reservation.

Psalm 32:8

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you.”

Isaiah 30:21

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”

Proverbs 11:14

“For lack of guidance a nation falls, but victory is won through many advisers.”

Philippians 2:13

“For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

Colossians 3:15

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”

What Are You Looking At?

I was on a mission.  I knew what I was looking for and I was intently focused on the object of my attention.

To be more specific I was searching for the object of my affection.

Mounted upon my trusty steed I was moving at a speed in keeping with my exploratory expedition.  Knowing I was nearing the habitation of that for which I was searching, I endeavored to ensure my gaze was intent upon the discovery I was hoping for.

Unbeknownst to me, an unforeseen foe was lurking outside the parameters of my rapt attention.  To my utter and complete surprise I would soon discover the limitation and danger involved with being negligent in my willingness to be aware of the potential dangers that surrounded me.

My journey would end in complete failure.  I managed to escape with no lasting injuries.  The only real damage was done to my fragile ego – wounded, but not broken.

So what was my quest?  What was that for which I was searching?

Well, it was 1970.  I was 8 years of age, and I was on the lookout for someone very special to me at the time – Peggy Bailey.  She lived down the street from me.  She was in my class at school and she had caught my eye, and my heart.

My plan?

Well, I would ride down the street to her house on my 3-speed banana seat bike.  Then, when at the point where she could see me passing by on the street I would impress her beyond belief by riding with no hands.  That would surely catch her attention and secure a special place for me in her heart.

My plan was proceeding perfectly.  Everything was going just as I had envisioned… except for the parked car.  I was so intently focused on Peggy’s house that I neglected to look at the path I was on.  Sadly, and painfully for me, my path would lead me directly into the bumper of a rock solid, heavily chromed, late 60’s “boat” of a vehicle.

Just as I took my hands off the handle bars to execute the last component of my plan, I slammed into the car.  I flew off my bike onto the hood, then rolled off onto the street.  I didn’t bother to look back and see if Peggy had indeed been watching me out her window.  I grabbed my bike, hopped on and rode home to lick my wounds.

Even though this is a silly childhood story I think it contains a lesson for all of us.

We can choose what we focus on.  We can choose that which receives our time and attention.

I was on a prayer walk with a good friend of mine recently and we were talking about how easy it is to focus on the things of this world and miss that which is really important.  We are meant to be in this world, but not of it.  Our minds are meant to be set on things above – on eternal things.

When we focus on the things of this world we will hit obstacles that keep us from getting hold of all that Jesus has for us.  We will miss the Kingdom of God in us and through us if we don’t chose to partner with the Lord in His will in our lives.  We’ve got to realize that the tide set against us is a propensity to desire the things of this world.

We must ardently seek God’s heart for us and for others through us.  So how do we do that?  Time, time time: time with Him, time with His word, time with His people, time serving others.

Our focus needs to be on God’s Kingdom, His will, His heart, His government on earth as it is in heaven.  When we focus on Him and His Truth we avoid the pitfalls of the enemy – those parked cars that stop our forward progress.

So what are you focusing on?  What are you looking at?

Let’s ask the Lord to help us focus on that which is unseen – that which is eternal.  Let’s  ensure we’re looking at Him.

Matthew 6:33

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

2 Corinthians 4:18

“So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

John 12:25

“Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”

Romans 12:2

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”