Life in Focus

Where following Jesus and Every Day Life Intersect


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Advance Part 2: Postures of Prayer

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In my last posting, I shared the first few points from Beth Moore’s teaching at a Living Proof Live event I attended in Stockton, California. We began going through an acrostic: A-D-V-A-N-C-E based on Philippians 1:22-24. Last time we looked at her first two points:

A- A Kingdom is Coming

D- Dare to Advance It

This post will focus on the next two letters in the acrostic, which both involve prayer.

V- Vie Fiercely in Prayer

I took a peak at the definition of “vie” so that we’d all be clear on what this means. It is a verb meaning “to strive in competition or rivalry with another; to contend for superiority.” We are vying with Satan to see the Kingdom of God advanced while he attempts to thwart us. The way to claim territory for God is through praying fiercely!

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:11-12)

Beth explained that we are not going to live bolder than we pray. We must access the resources God has given us. When we do this, our prayers become powerful and the gospel advances. We have to advance in our prayer lives before we can advance the kingdom of God on earth or we’ll be ill prepared to keep hold of the territory we claim for Christ. Beth admonished us saying that demons should shudder when we enter into prayer.

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. (James 5:16b)

If you’re hesitant to think of yourself as righteous, keep this in mind: This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. (Romans 3:22-24)

We claim righteousness for ourselves through accepting Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sins.   Once we realize our righteousness comes from Him alone, we gain access to the power of him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us. (Ephesians 3:20)

If you’re feeling a bit unsure of how to advance in your prayer life, consider studying one of the many books written on prayer. Two that have had a lasting impact on me are Live a Praying Life by Jennifer Kennedy Dean and Lord, Teach Me to Pray by Kay Arthur. If you have a book that has impacted your prayer life, please comment below so that others can benefit from it.

A- Add Traction to Your Action

Beth encouraged us to think about our physical posture in prayer and challenged us to change it up from time to time to keep our prayer lives fresh.  This shouldn’t be treated as a formula or used superstitiously, but the way we position our bodies does communicate different things to God. She examined four common postures for prayer that are repeated throughout scripture: face down, on our knees, seated and standing.

Face Down:

Lying face down on the floor with my arms spread wide is a posture I use when I want to show God I am in full surrender–this usually happens when I’m in a desperate situation and finally realize I have no one else who can help me the way God can. When I’m face down on the floor before God, my prayers are usually not very eloquent but more of a blurting of words in random order. As I breathe out, I release the thoughts and feelings that cloud my mind: fear, anxiety, confusion, or discouragement. As I breathe in, I invite God to replace all of the negativity with trust, peace, clarity, or encouragement. I rarely have the answer to my dilemma by the time I get off the floor, but I always have a new perspective and a renewed sense of peace knowing God is in control.

For biblical examples of face down prayers check out: Abraham (Genesis 17), Moses (Numbers 20), Jesus (Matthew 26).

On Our Knees:

Praying in this position shows humility before God. It was Daniel’s posture when he sought God’s help after learning King Darius signed a decree forbidding prayers to anyone other than him.   Sometimes kneeling is associated with more formal or traditional styles of worship, but it is a fitting posture anytime we want to show God we know He is bigger and wiser than us.

For a few biblical examples of people praying on their knees check out: Solomon (2 Chronicles 6), Daniel (Daniel 6), Psalm 95:6.

Seated:

This may be the most common posture in the modern church, however it is one of the least- mentioned postures in Scripture. We see David seated before God in prayer as he reviews the things God has done for him and discusses the future with Him. Much of my personal prayer time happens in the seated position as I lift up prayers of adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication. Many years ago I learned that my prayers were more focused when I wrote them in a journal.   Sitting before God and pouring my words out on the page helps me to look back on His faithfulness and to work through the many thoughts rumbling around in my mind.

To read David’s prayer seated before God see 2 Samuel 7:18-29.

Standing:

Often prayers in this position involve praising God. When we sing worship songs with others, they are simply prayers set to music. This can be a powerful position for lifting our hands to honor the One True God. Standing shoulder to shoulder with others to worship God builds unity and strengthens a community of faith.

For biblical examples of people standing to pray, check out Solomon (1 Kings 8), and the Pharisee & Tax Collector (Luke 18).

I got to witness a variety of prayer postures during a recent youth group houseboat trip to Lake Shasta. It was a privilege to join forty other adults leading 260 high school students. Many students made first time commitments to Christ and a number of others grew deeper in their relationships with Him.

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Each morning the group would gather on the beach to sing worship songs and then scatter for personal devotions. All around the beach people stood, sat, crouched and knelt before God in prayer. As I sat in my folding chair facing the water with my journal and Bible on my lap, I was overwhelmed with gratitude realizing that every person on that beach had direct access to God at exactly the same time. We’re called to “vie fiercely in prayer” but we never have to vie for God’s attention. He is ready and waiting to hear from us in whatever posture we choose any time we seek Him.

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On our final day at Lake Shasta, the worship team invited us to stay scattered on the beach as we sang a closing song. It was a powerful experience transitioning from personal time with God to worshipping Him with others. Click on the link for your own “worship moment” to hear the song we sang, “Fall Afresh” by Bethel Music featuring Jeremy Riddle.

 

 



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Advance!

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Last week I had my first experience seeing Beth Moore teach in person at a Living Proof Live event in Stockton, CA. I was impressed as she described praying that God would give her a specific word for our group of 5000 that weekend. God delivered some powerful answers to her prayers and used her to inspire the crowd in mighty ways.

Her theme for the weekend was “Advance!” based on this verse: Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters,that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel.” (Philippians 1:12)

She admonished us to advance in the gospel personally so that we could advance the gospel in the lives of others. Using the acrostic “A-D-V-A-N-C-E” she led us through a series of key points to make Paul’s message in Philippians applicable to our lives today. I always absorb information more thoroughly by taking notes and reviewing them. I’ll be using my next few posts to share the key points from her three talks and then I’ll add my own thoughts about them.

Here are the first two parts of the acrostic:

A- A Kingdom is Coming.

And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”   (Matthew 24:14)

God’s kingdom is a present reality and a future reality. When we share the gospel, we participate in spreading His kingdom on earth.   To advance the gospel, we must know God’s word and then pray for open doors to share it with others. Whether we have the gift of evangelism or not, this is part of our call as followers of Christ.

Every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we ask God to further His kingdom when we say: “‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,your kingdom come, 
your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:9-10) Asking for God’s will to be done on earth allows us to claim territory for Him. As hearts and minds surrender to Christ, we advance His Kingdom and the world around us changes for the better. We also add to the ranks of the souls who will celebrate in God’s forever kingdom.

Furthering the kingdom is about living out the gospel first with our deeds and then with our words. When our actions toward others align with God’s will and word, we bless them and spread His kingdom. Mother Teresa said it well: “Spread the love of God through your life but only use words when necessary.”

D- Dare to Advance It

The Greek word for “advance” is “prokopen” which Beth explains as “to beat or drive forward as if with repeated strokes, hence to go forward or further, make progress, proceed.” She connected this to the example of clearing dense brush in a jungle using a machete. Similarly, we use the sword of the Spirit to hack through the darkness to advance the Kingdom of God. “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17)

If we don’t advance in our knowledge of the word of God, we won’t understand the access we have to God’s incredible power. Without these things, we can’t further God’s kingdom. Bible study doesn’t sound quite so tame when it’s described like that.

Don’t let all this talk about hacking through darkness scare you! Spreading God’s kingdom isn’t about hitting people over the head with a Bible. It’s about loving them. Here are few ideas for advancing the kingdom:

-Show compassion to a hurting world

-Give mercy instead of judging people

-Be honest about your own sin and brokenness with God and others

-Forgive people when they don’t deserve it

-Allow time in your day to be interrupted, to listen, to show kindness

-Say “no” to selfishness and self-absorption

None of these things can be done on your own strength. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and equip you, then advance!

Every time I hear Jason Gray’s song “With Every Act of Love” it inspires me to further the kingdom of God on earth.   It makes me realize simple acts of love lead others to want to know Him. This is how we advance the gospel.

Click on the link to hear “With Every Act of Love.”

**Special thanks to my son for creating the scene of the advancing Lego army for this week’s photo.

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Grappling with Change

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The end of the school year always makes me nostalgic and a bit wistful. This year was especially poignant as we had three nephews and two nieces graduate from high school or college.   As I sat in the audience during one niece’s graduation ceremony, scenes flashed through my mind of the eighteen previous years, starting with the day she was born. It’s hard to believe she’s grown and about to leave for college in a few months. I know I’m getting older every day, but those milestone moments drive it home with extra impact.

Change is a part of life, but sometimes I don’t like it very much.   Kids grow up, friendships change, and communities evolve. All of this is normal, but sometimes it creates an ache in me that spirals to a place of deep longing.   If I’m not careful, I can wallow in my sadness and lose sight of the truth.

Life is constantly changing and there is nothing I can do to stop it. However, there is a greater Truth that gives me hope in spite of this:

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8).

No matter what changes this life may bring, God is always the same. He is our Solid Rock and the firm foundation on which we stand. Our circumstances may change, our relationships may ebb and flow, our health may fail us, but God will never leave us or forsake us.

“My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” (Psalm 62:1-2)

There is an old hymn that has been a favorite of mine for many years called “The Solid Rock” by Edward Mote.

 My hope is built on nothing less


Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;


I dare not trust the sweetest frame,


But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

 When darkness veils His lovely face,


I rest on His unchanging grace;

In every high and stormy gale,


My anchor holds within the veil.

 His oath, His covenant, His blood


Support me in the whelming flood;


When all around my soul gives way,


He then is all my hope and stay.

 When He shall come with trumpet sound,


Oh, may I then in Him be found;


Dressed in His righteousness alone,


Faultless to stand before the throne.

 Refrain: 


On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand;


All other ground is sinking sand,


All other ground is sinking sand.

It’s based on Jesus’s teaching in Matthew 7:24-26.

“Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

If we want Jesus to be our firm foundation, then we need to read His word and put it into practice. As we pursue Him, He’ll continue to shape our characters and refine our perspectives. Although I don’t like change, this is transformation I want. This is change I need.

Jesus is the Solid Rock to which we cling in this world of shifting sand. Having a firm foundation beneath our feet gives us hope and courage to press on. We can be reassured and filled with confidence knowing God never changes.  How could we ever keep this amazing hope to ourselves when there is a world that desperately needs to hear Truth?

Click on the link to hear a newer interpretation of “The Solid Rock.” Hillsong sings this recent version called “Cornerstone.” (The title comes from Isaiah 28:16 and 2 Peter 2:6 depicts Jesus as our Cornerstone– the most important stone in a structure which determines the design and orientation of the entire building. Noted in the Zondervan Study Bible).