Over the years as I’ve grown in my faith, what I have thought about prayer has shifted dramatically. I’m sure that my experience with prayer as a child wasn’t very different from most. I learned to pray by reciting specific phrases such as “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord, my soul, to keep” or “God our Father, God our Father once again, once again, thank you for this blessing thank you for this blessing, amen, amen.” As I grew older prayer was modeled to me as sort of a last resort. I heard often as a child “well it seems all there is to do now is pray.” That is such a far cry from what I know prayer to actually be today in my life.
1 John 5:14-15 says: “And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.” I want to leave you with a thought as we round the corner on the last stretch of our 21 days of prayer and fasting together.
Prayer is more about alignment than fulfillment.
C.S. Lewis said it best. “Prayer doesn’t change God, it changes me.” If prayer is always our last resort, then we are never really able to come into alignment with the will of God over our circumstances. However, when prayer becomes my first response, I allow Him to have a say in the direction of my life. My hope is that through fasting and prayer this year we have all disciplined ourselves to make prayer our first response to every day. Don’t let your prayer be in an effort to bend the arm of God so much as you intentionally begin to pray the will of God in every circumstance. “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.”
God is calling us to be a people marked by his name. Our passion is to walk in Holiness (1 Peter 1:16) We are to be holy as He is holy!!
Many people have a wrong view of holiness. We think of holiness as morality, or not going to the movies, or wearing skirts to your ankles. But:
- Holiness means we are set apart.
You can be holy and not be weird. That’s not what He’s talking about when he says set apart He doesn’t mean you have to not be able to carry on a conversation with people. We aren’t set apart because of what we do. We’re set apart because God set us apart.
Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.
We’re set apart because God loved us and CHOSE us IN CHRIST. To be holy and without fault IN HIS EYES.
Our holiness is based on how GOD sees us. And when we see ourselves as God sees us our actions, words, and thoughts will begin to reflect how God already sees us.
As we walk closer with God, spend time in His presence, and begin to listen to what He says about us. Then we will begin to look more and more like Him. There will be FRUIT, evidence:
- Joy– in the presence of God is fullness of Joy (Psalm 16:11)
- Peace– letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. (Romans 8:6)
- Love– God is love (1 John 4:15) John 13:35 says we will be known as His disciples by the way we love others.
- Light– In Christ we are made the light of the world (Matthew 5:14)
- Hope– God is the source of hope, and we will overflow with confident hope through the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13)
- Healing– He’s the one who heals our sickness, our spirit, our souls, and our bodies (Isaiah 53:5)
- Fruits of the Spirit– God’s presence in our lives will produce fruit (Galatians 5:22)
If we are marked with his name we should walk in a victorious manner because God is our Good Father. Pray that we carry His name well and be the representatives of the kingdom of God that he has called us to be….When we do we live out purpose, satisfaction, destiny and it will be obvious that we carry the Mark of God which will be His character.
Desperation Church, Lead Pastor
Cultivate Church, Overseer
This is a very familiar story we have all heard many times before. Martha is busy working away while Mary is sitting with Jesus & listening to his teaching. Martha gets upset with her sister for bailing on her while serving & asks Jesus to step in. Instead of granting her request, Jesus explains that Mary has chosen the “good portion/part” or essentially made the right choice.
During this time of prayer & fasting, I felt called to these 5 verses once again. What I realized was, I am “Martha” by nature. I’m always planning or working on getting things done to the point that I often have to slow down & remember what is most important in order to truly experience it. For many of us serving in church for a long time, this is true as well. It gets easy over time to get caught up in the serving aspect & miss out on true worship, the point of the teaching or just experiencing the actual presence of God, because we are “busy” toiling about.
In looking back at this extremely condensed version of events, I noticed a few things. The series of events could have taken place over hours, a day, or even days. Maybe Martha felt justified in her request & had a good reason to be frustrated based on the work left to do. Jesus never specifically admonishes Martha for serving or make light of what she has done to prepare, rather he explains that she is troubled by many things and missing the “main thing.” Ultimately, I think Martha’s heart was in the right place in her service & much of what she did was probably necessary up to a point. However None of the preparation, planning, or service can replace the experience of being in Jesus’s presence. We should never lose sight of what’s most important and let anything distract us from the presence of God. Serve with all our hearts, but don’t miss out on “who” & why we serve.
My 9 year old daughter: “Mom, I asked all the kids in my class what they are fasting and no one else is fasting!”
Me: Face palm.
The beauty of raising our children with our friends/family at Cultivate Church is the fact that our kiddo’s have the same built in community that we have. (Side note: Can I tell you what a joy it has been to see so many of our friends fasting together, praying for one another, and encouraging each other.) While it’s not a deal breaker by any means to fast on your own- there is so much life when doing it together.
This morning in my quiet time I started reading in Matthew 5. The famous ‘Beatitudes’ simply meaning “supremely blessed” (ummm yes, please!)
3“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him,[a]
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
4 God blesses those who mourn,
for they will be comforted.
5 God blesses those who are humble,
for they will inherit the whole earth.
6 God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice,[b]
for they will be satisfied.
7 God blesses those who are merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
8 God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
for they will see God.
9 God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.
10 God blesses those who are persecuted for doing right,
for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.
11 “God blesses you when people mock you and persecute you and lie about you and say all sorts of evil things against you because you are my followers. 12 Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted in the same way.
When I think back to my daughter’s thoughts about feeling alone (and if I’m being honest, a little salty) in a season of personal sacrifice, I was reminded today that Jesus turns the table on what we call “blessed” and He sets a new standard. Jesus reminds us that the truly blessed are spiritually poor, the humble, those who mourn, those who hunger for God, the pure, the peacemakers, and the persecuted.
If you find yourself alone in a thought process or feeling different than the people around you.. don’t be discouraged- reread verses 3-12 and shift your thought process to His ways.
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.
Be the right kind of salty and watch what God does with it!
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
A time of fasting can open up so many areas of our lives. It reveals our level of discipline. It reveals our motives. It reveals our level of commitment. Will I be strong enough to keep denying myself something I enjoy? Will I continue to see the bigger picture for what this time is meant to be?
It also reveals a lot in our spirits. It gives us a more clear path to God’s presence because we’ve gotten rid of some of the ‘noise’ that usually separates us. It lets us see clearly where we usually have distractions. Saying ‘no’ to something serves as a constant reminder of what should come above all else.
Brandon will still make fun of me for how I used to approach fasting. My mind approaches everything in a very black and white fashion so I would get so wrapped up in what ‘fit’ into the fast that it became a distraction in itself. I had to learn that the point of a fast is to draw close. To make your mind clear. That God isn’t looking for a ‘thing’ to be done perfectly. He’s looking for his people to take their usually busy and distracted lives and focus on Him.
This time is meant to give us a clear vision into what God is doing in us and around us. What we experience in Him these 21 days still won’t touch what He has available to us! Many of us are tearing down walls! We’re praying impossible prayers! We’re dreaming dreams that can only be accomplished with the help of the Lord! And that’s what we’re meant to do! Not just for 21 days but for our lives!
We’re about to wrap up this time with a night of prayer and worship where we’re going to attack these prayers and dreams with the force of a whole Cultivate family in one room lifting our voices to a very living God! This thing is going to climax in just a few days so keep pushing! God desires to show up in your life in a way you’ve never dreamed of! We can literally go no where that is lacking His presence. You can’t eat something wrong on the fast and ruin it. You can’t mess up beyond where He sees you. He loves you and is pursuing you!
Tap into the amazing goodness that the Lord has waiting for you! YOU have a part to play in the greatness that He has in store for this church and this county and this nation. Pray this hard prayer and keep growing!
Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
“Good and easy don’t often go together.” I heard this quote years ago and it has stayed with me as a compass of sorts. So often in our lives, we want the best possible outcome with the least amount of work, heartache, pain, or discomfort. But let’s be real, life doesn’t work that way.
As we’ve been going through the fast, I have kept this quote close at heart. Do I want what is easy in the moment or what is truly best? The physical act of denying ourselves isn’t comfortable and surely isn’t easy, but man, does it lead to some good stuff.
When we stop focusing on all the things we “can’t” – what we can’t have, what we can’t do, where we can’t go – and start pressing into God, it clears the cobwebs from our heart and mind and reawakens us to the things of God.
Remember, the act of fasting isn’t as much about denying ourselves as it is reminding ourselves that we need God more than anything else. As we enter the last stretch of our fast, I encourage you to give yourself an extra boost and really lean into God. Set the alarm a little earlier so you can start your day in the Scriptures, turn off the podcast and crank up some worship music, schedule in an afternoon break to pray. Whatever it looks like for you, make the effort to finish strong. Will it be easy? Probably not, but you better believe it will be worth it!