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YOUR 100 DAY PRAYERTHE TRANSFORMING POWER OF ACTIVELY WAITING ON GOD
By JOHN I. SNYDER
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2011 John Ivan Snyder a/k/a John Snyder
All right reserved.
Chapter OneDAY 1
In the Beginning
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.
Sometimes the imagery used in the Bible tells us more than the words themselves. The very first two verses of Genesis are a perfect example of this. As God began to create the world we live in, the Hebrew writer portrayed the Spirit of God as "hovering over" the unformed and unruly mass, much like a mother bird fluttering over her brood. The picture here is the very careful and loving attention God gives to his creation—protecting, shaping, and guiding its development. In other words, there's no room for chance or randomness. Everything is under his control.
As God's Spirit hovers, he extracts from the chaos perfect order, boundaries, and purpose. This appears to be the job description of the Holy Spirit from day one up to this very day in our lives. As he continually hovers over all our chaos and disorder— our pain, uncertainty of our future, betrayal, financial challenges, disorder, deceit, and fear—he brings out of them the ordered design that he wants for us and that he intended from the very beginning of the world.
If there is any short summary or basic message we can extract from the Bible's story of creation, it's this: God is in charge. He's in charge of everything, all the time, and forever. We aren't.
What greater comfort could there be for us? God is with us. Let's hold on to the promise—Emmanuel, God with us. He will rescue and save us.
Ask the Holy Spirit to sweep into your heart and mind, to bring order, peace, and purpose into your need and request.
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.... But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
–MATTHEW 6:25, 33
One of the most consistent themes in the New Testament is the encouragement—even the command—not to worry. About anything! It's forbidden. Anxiety has no place in the life of faith because any kind of worry is out of touch with reality. The presence of worry indicates a low level of trust in God, and a high level of trust in God will invariably result in a reduction of worry.
Jesus really does want us to be very low on the worry scale and very high on the peace and joy scale, benefits provided only through trusting implicitly in God. The apostle Paul reiterates the point when he says that we should not be anxious about anything but instead simply make our requests known to God (Phil. 4:5–6).
Sounds simple and clear enough. But why does this seem so impossible to us, and why is trust so hard to find? Jesus gives us the answer: it happens only when we put the kingdom of God first and seek it above anything else on earth. When we wake up every morning and say, "Today, Lord, with your help, I'm going to put you first and seek your perfect will in everything I do," we'll find worry slowly beginning to fade as we stare down every situation with trust in God's providence and goodwill.
No, it won't happen magically or overnight (nothing does), but it will happen. That's the testimony of millions of believers through the centuries. German missionary George Mueller struggled for years to feed hundreds of hungry orphans each day without a regular income, until the day came when, he said, "worry and I parted ways." He simply discovered on the basis of his own long-term experience that God is faithful every day and that worry not only is an enormous waste of time and energy but is also unrealistic. It's out of place in a life of mature faith.
To be sure, it takes all of us time to get this, but in time we will. It's better to get there as early as possible because every day we fill up with anxiety just makes life much harder than it needs to be. So put God and his kingdom first, and let him bring to you, as you sleep, all the things the rest of the world works feverishly through the night trying to acquire.
Go to God humbly and ask him to reveal the secret places of worry and anxiety that surround you and your need.
Good out of Evil
You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
This statement near the end of the incredible story of Joseph is one of the most amazing truths in the Bible. It summarizes the entire history of faith—yours, mine, and everyone else's. It ties up all the loose ends of human life lived under the umbrella of God's grace and mercy. It speaks of God's mysterious ability to take any and all evil, all malicious intent, and turn it on its head. It's the practical outworking of what is said in the very first verses of Genesis about the work of the Holy Spirit—that God's Spirit hovers over us and draws order and purpose out of our own chaos and disorder, just as he did at the beginning of creation.
God takes every malevolent thing aimed at us by others and deliberately exploits it for his purposes and our good. People may imagine that their cruel or self-serving plans are working perfectly, but at the right moment God reveals that he stepped in early, wrote a different conclusion to the play, and brought us from the place of their curse into the place of his blessing. As the great Scriptwriter of history, he reserves the right to change all minor plots into his great plot. So he remains the author, director, and main actor of every play on his earth.
What a reason to stay positive in every single situation in life! Try to imagine how God is actively working in your life to create exits for the traps and corners thought up for you by someone else. Think of the fact that every plot hatched by your adversaries to entrap or destroy you is being turned into a blessing by your heavenly Father. These rescues and reversals may not be evident early in the game (it wasn't to Joseph either), but they will be clear at the end. Anywhere along the line of his story, Joseph could have stopped and concluded that God was against him, had forgotten all about him, and tossed him aside. Yet when the last chapter is written and all the loose ends are tied together, God's providential hand becomes evident in every detail of the story.
And that's the good news for us. God is acting behind the scenes even when we may not recognize his presence, but he's there nonetheless, and he determines the final scene of the play. Thankfully, it's in our favor.
Do you see any external barriers or enemies between you and your need? Go to God and ask for his perspective so that it can inform and transform yours.
He Heals the Brokenhearted
He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.
What's so hopeful about this kind of statement in the Bible is that God's involvement with us isn't so "spiritual" and heavenly that it has no earthly good.
This is really where the rubber meets the road: God is very present with us in our broken-heartedness, disillusionments, despair, and wounded spirits. These painful experiences—those that go deep into our hearts and psyches and daily eat away at the center of our being—are what occupy too many of our days.
It's not just the great conflicts on the global or national level or the issues that appear on the evening news that God is concerned about—the small and the highly personal and intimate issues also attract his loving attention. He meets us where we are, not just where we ought to be. He wants to heal our deep hurts and bind up our hidden wounds—those not evident to anyone else—because he cares about such things and intends to do something about them. It's in the soil of this well-grounded hope that we are able to trust and grow.
If sometimes God doesn't heal our wounds the very moment we ask him, it's not because he isn't concerned; it's because he intends to grow us through them. That might even be the reason they were allowed to come our way in the first place. If God is really in charge of everything all the time, then he's in charge of this as well. And don't forget, there will come a day when such things are no longer even a memory:
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. (Rev. 21:4)
Are there places in your heart and soul that feel so wounded that your prayer request feels out of reach because of you? Ask God to give you his eternal perspective on your development as a person of faith.
The Father's House
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
This wonderful passage is even better than it first appears. It has a double reference, both of which are extremely good news for us. On the one hand, it seems to refer to the place Jesus is about to prepare for us by going to the cross—a place in the Father's house that he alone enjoyed before coming to live among us. He had perfect fellowship with God the Father long before his incarnation as a human being, a unique place of love and intimacy he is about to share with all his followers.
In other words, by going to the cross and paying for our sins, he creates a "dwelling place" for us to enjoy right now, today, not someday in the indeterminate future. We can have that place with the Father and in the Father's house that Jesus had and now has. We can live where he lives, close to the Father's heart.
But it means even more. Not only can we have that abiding place of nearness to God right now so that we can pray, "Abba Father" ("Papa" or something close to that), but we will be safely at home in the Father's house for eternity when this "preliminary life" is done. So the benefits of Jesus' death on the cross are for right now as well as in the future; he has provided all the privileges of being in the family of God today, tomorrow, and forever.
Can it get any better than that? Once we grasp this sure truth, it begins to squeeze out all despair, depression, darkness, and negative thinking. The joy of this may not happen overnight (it's not magic), but it will grow real as the way gets brighter and brighter as we walk the long walk of faith.
Life teaches us this lesson: we can get through anything when we know what the end looks like. Thankfully, God has given us a clear picture of what our destiny actually is, sealed with his proven promise and illustrated ahead of time by Jesus' resurrection.
Ask God to fill your heart with the joy and security of a sure destination. Then think of the nature of your need in light of God's eternal plans for you.
Ever the Same
Sing joyfully to the Lord, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. Praise the Lord with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy. For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does.
Can you think of any reason to sing joyfully at this very moment? If something really bad just happened to you, you probably can't. But there is a reason to be joyful whether you feel like it or not. In fact, if we wait until we feel full of joyful praise to God before we actually do praise him, we might be waiting until Armageddon! There's always something that will keep us from being joyful.
That's why we need to learn a lesson from those who have gone before us. We praise God, sing to him a new song, and shout for joy just because he is who he is, because his word is right and true, and because he is faithful in all he does. We don't need any more reasons than these.
Praise is simply acknowledging who and what God is. We offer praise on the grounds of his worthiness of it. We may be staring at the magnificence of the Grand Canyon while at the same time feeling sick with the flu, but we still find ourselves saying, "What an awesome sight!" So it is with God. We might be going through a tough time or not even want to get out of bed in the morning, but we can still manage to thank God and offer him praise for who he is and all that he has done and will do.
Once we get the full picture of who God is (it doesn't happen in one day), what he's done for us, what awaits us, and how faithful he has been and will continue to be, the praise part gets much easier. Time and experience teach us the discipline of praising God in spite of the things going on around us or within us. Whatever they may be, they're temporary, while God's trustworthiness and faithfulness are permanent. Our feelings come and go, but God's word and purpose are ever the same.
So we can stay positive and expectant even when we don't feel like it. Maturity in faith comes when we can say in all honesty, "I don't feel positive and upbeat today because it seems like things couldn't be worse. But I can keep my eyes on the compass of God's ever-steady character and true word. I can know that he controls all things, in good weather or bad. The storm can't destroy me because he won't let it. I can't see it yet, but I'm convinced there's a safe harbor ahead—he promised it."
Ask God to give you the extraordinary, what you can't create for yourself—the ability to praise him for his faithfulness in meeting your need even before your need is felt.
Excerpted from YOUR 100 DAY PRAYER by JOHN I. SNYDER Copyright © 2011 by John Ivan Snyder a/k/a John Snyder. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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