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Word For You Today

Prayer: Relationship, Not Help-Desk

Are all prayers worth the same? God's fair, isn't He? So that should mean that He takes the distracted half-grace we say before dinner as seriously as that person praying and fasting for 24 hours? Maybe not. Why did Jesus teach His disciples that certain ministry was only possible with prayer and fasting (Mark 9:29, Matthew 17:21)? Why does James 5:16 talk about the prayer of a 'righteous person', instead of saying that 'all prayer is powerful and effective'?

Here's a challenging thought. Maybe prayer isn't Heaven's help desk. Maybe, just maybe, prayer is part of that Christianity thing we keep insisting is a relationship. In fact, we'd argue, it's the lifeblood of it. If being a Christian is having a relationship with God - supported by good habits of 'true religion' (James 1:27) that we build into it - then, when it comes to facing a problem, only firing off the odd panic-prayer is like talking to your parents only when you want money. Look up 1 Thessalonians 5:17.

And get this! Prayer isn't really about you. It's about Him. In fact, not only are we meant to be in a constant 'prayerlationship' with God, but that prayer should be the sort that re-points us from ourselves toward Him. That's the prayer that moves mountains.

So what now? Read James 5:13-18, then think of someone who's a leader, of a church, a business or a country. Got one? Good. Stick their name on your wall, and pray for them each day this week.

Soulfood : Josh 16:1 - 19:23, Mark 11:12-26, Ps 112, Prov 23:13-15

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Praying Together. We're On To That.

'I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer.' 1 Timothy 2:8 NIV

When Paul was training Timothy up in ministry, he kept going back over and over this one point: prayer. Have a read of 1 Timothy 2:1-10. Paul was keen to emphasise the need for prayer, particularly with others, as the Church, the Body of Christ. When we bring everything before God in prayer, we're including Him in our adventures, our trials and our future. Without including God, we end up being a church of people, not the Church of God. Corporate prayer is something really powerful, especially when we seek the help of the Holy Spirit.

When you think of prayer, is it a quick end of the day job or a rushed word before a meal? Or is it a shoulder-to-shoulder cry of the Church, longing to get closer to God and get Him out there into the world?

In Isaiah 56:7 NIV the Lord's house is described as a '...house of prayer for all nations.' Prayer changes things, across the whole world. It's also one of the things that unites the Church, globally. So, let's get serious about praying for the Church, and as the Church, today.

So what now? Get hold of two different people from your church (or people in the community that you belong to - your workplace, the street/building you live in, etc.). Ask if there's anything in their lives right now that they'd like you to pray for. Then, whatever they say, find something practical to do to help them out too.


SoulFood: Josh 14-15, Mark 11:1-11, Ps 20, Pro 23:10-12

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Prayer Is Major

Someone asked American pastor Tim Keller, 'What's one piece of advice you would tell your younger self, or something you wished you knew then that you know now about the Lord?' Tim tweeted back: 'I would tell him that prayer is way more important than he thinks.'

Yes, it can be tough to find time to talk to God, and we can stress ourselves by guiltily comparing our prayer habits to a praying friend (Stop that. Prayer is your personal business, and comparisons help no-one). But, prayer is major.

So, what to do when it feels like we're just too busy, when we literally don't have a spare minute? In Mark 1:35 NIV it says 'Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed.' Getting up early can be hard, we know! But Jesus did it. We might have to get up early to ensure we get that one-on-one time with God. But, if Jesus thought it was important to make time for it, maybe we should too.

So what now? Inconvenience yourself. Set two alarms on your phone tomorrow: the first to wake you up for a pre-sunrise prayer time. Use the second alarm to remind you to go out of your way to give selflessly of your time and energy to anyone within range. (How much easier is it to inconvenience yourself for other people when you've inconvenienced yourself for God first?)

Soulfood : Josh 11-13, Mark 10:35-52, Ps 142, Prov 23:7-9

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Giving Takes Guts

Whether you find stepping up in front of people easy, or would rather remain anonymous, giving takes guts. It takes initiative. Taking initiative is all about looking a situation up and down, and grabbing the opportunity within it - picking up the mess after the party is over, chatting to the newbie at church. It took initiative for the Good Samaritan to do what two others had failed to do. Read Luke 10:25-37 and see what sets him apart from the do-gooders.

We don't know whether the Samaritan was an outgoing guy, or whether he was shy or worried about what people would think. Either way, he gave of himself. Whatever he felt about the situation, he responded immediately. Jesus describes the Samaritan as a 'neighbour to the man' (Acts 20:36 NIV). How amazing would it be for Christians (especially those who'd rather not make a big deal about it) to be known as people who are neighbours to people in every situation, jumping in with compassion when others don't?

For those of us who wouldn't class ourselves as the outgoing types, there may be an extra leap needed towards acts of generosity. But that leap, even when it's difficult, is 100% worth it. That's what Jesus is getting at when He says 'Go and do likewise' (Acts 20:37 NIV).

So what now? Here's an initiative-taking challenge: write a note for someone that you don't know particularly well, that highlights their good points. Give it to them in person, and stay while they read it (gulp). Chat to them afterwards.

Soulfood : Josh 8:30 - 10:43, Mark 10:23-34, Ps 111, Prov 23:4-6

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Why Is It Better To Give?

Maybe it would have been easier if Jesus had just said 'Receiving things is great! Giving things, mmm yes, that's nice too, once in a while...' Doesn't Jesus realise how hard it is to give sometimes? We get that He gave Himself for us, and so Christians should be willing to give too, but people can be really ungrateful sometimes.

What if Jesus wasn't only telling us to 'give' for the benefit of others (those we're giving stuff to) but for our own benefit too? God designed us in His image (Genesis 1:26), and the image of God is one of someone who gives. Say what now? Let's look at another version of today's verse to expand on what Jesus is getting at: The CEV edition says 'More blessings come from giving than from receiving.' This means we will be blessed by giving because in giving we will become more Christ-like. We will find contentment because we'll be acting more like Jesus. And that's really something.

When, through giving, we find that deep contentment, we're less likely to crave getting 'stuff' from other people in the first place.

So what now? Think about the last thing that God gave to you: a particular exciting task or job, or good experience, even just your last meal. Find a way to mirror God's act of giving and replicate it for someone else. That might be a task that requires thought and creativity, but it'll be worth it.

Soulfood : Josh 5:1 - 8:29, Mark 10:13-22, Ps 103:13-22, Prov 23:1-3

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Give It Your All

'Wholeheartedness' is all about sincerity and commitment. We could describe Abraham that way, to a T. He was so God-fearing and committed that he was willing to sacrifice his only son (have a read of Genesis 22:1-19 for a reminder). That's sincere faith, right there. And when we look at how God responded to this kind of faith it's a good reminder of how we should be willing to live. In Genesis 22:17 NLT God says, through an angel, that He will '...certainly bless' Abraham. Verse 18 goes on: God says '...through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed - all because you have obeyed me.'

Wow. When we're willing to go the extra mile for God, He certainly notices. When we learn to live out our faith with heart, He blesses whatever we're doing for Him. Now that doesn't mean that playing in the worship group has a direct correlation to the dollars in our bank balance. But it does mean that, when we give it absolutely everything we've got, living with a generous heart, we'll begin to see God at work and we'll learn to recognise His blessings.

So what now? Have a wardrobe clearout. But, among the too-small t-shirts and last year's jeans, give away something that you like and wear. If Abraham could prepare to sacrifice his son, you can sacrifice that jumper. Give the clothes to someone who might be struggling to get new ones or, if you don't know anyone who is, take them to a charity shop.

Soulfood : Josh 1-4, Mark 10:1-12, Ps 103:1-12, Prov 22:27-29

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Close-Range Pain (2)

Ok, you went for your prayer walk yesterday. You identified some of the stuff that's been weighing on your heart, and are working through it with God. Great. Really, really great.

And the next step after that? Well, maybe there isn't one. It could be that once you've acknowledged what's going on inside of you, and taken it to God, you're done. Often, all we need to 'get over something' is to actually face up to the thing itself. Maybe, then, you can just keep praying it through, and you'll be A-Ok.

If, however you feel like you need an extra step to feel completely 'over it', then here are a couple of ideas. (We're going to interrupt ourselves here to tell you to spend five praying through any issues again. Come back and carry on reading from here when you're done, though.)

(1) Talk to the person or people or organisation involved. Do it rationally, calmly and with as much grace as you (and Jesus through you) can muster, but do talk about the fact that you're hurt. (2) If, after doing that, you're still hurt, talk to someone else - a trusted, older friend. Sometimes, if the hurt goes deep, we need that outside perspective.

So what now? It's powerful to keep looking outwards to others, even if you're going through hurt. Pay for someone's lunch today. If you find yourself in a coffee shop, ask the person next in the queue what they want, and pay for it. If you don't have the cash to do that, strike up a conversation with them instead. Dare you.

Soulfood : Gen 11:1-9, Phil 2:1-11

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