Today, I want to share an acronym we are using at Ephesus for our 40 Days of Prayer emphasis as we begin 2022. Thank you to my pastor, Wayne Sullivan, for sharing this devotional/prayer emphasis as we seek God’s direction as His church. The acronym is H E A R. Two phrases from the Bible I take note of (heed), “Incline your ear……” and “He who has an ear, hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches…..” BOTH encourage us to truly listen to what God is saying to His people.
“H” is for HEED (notice, give attention, take note). “E” is for EXPLAIN (clarify, defend, describe). “A” represents APPLY/APPLICATION (utilize, employ, put in to operation). “R” stands for RESPOND (give answer, act/react, return). We need to HEAR what the Spirit is saying to His church today! Today is day 15 in our emphasis:
Heed: Take In God’s Word
The scripture listed includes 1 Samuel 12: 23 – 24: “Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. 24 Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you.”
Matthew 26: 40: “And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour?”
John 15: 5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
Explain: Think It All Through!
Apart from Christ, we can do nothing! With Him, all things are possible! Authentic Christian disciples, true Christ-followers will have a desire to have close intimacy with Christ in prayer. They will pray regularly for their family, church family, and friends.
Unfortunately, desire is rarely enough as we witness in the lives of Jesus’ closest disciples. In the Garden of Gethsemane, just before His betrayal by Judas, He asked His closest followers to “remain here, and watch with Me.” “Watch with Me,” was Jesus’ way of saying, “stay and pray with me.” Surely these men loved Jesus and desired to pray with Him into the night, especially since He told them that He was very sorrowful, “sorrowful, even to death” (Matthew 26:38). Sadly, desire was obviously not enough as Jesus found them sleeping rather than praying, not once, but three times.
How many times have you recommitted yourself to serious prayer only to find that your desire wasn’t enough to sustain you day after day without something more? Jesus expects us to pray! He said, “when you pray,” not “If you pray.” Prayerlessness isn’t just neglecting to do something! As James taught us, failing to do what we know to be right is sin (James 4:17).
Our prayerlessness is sin. Samuel recognized a lack of prayer as sin. In 1 Samuel 12, he said, “far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you” (1 Sam. 12:23). So should we.
Lack of intimate prayer weakens us because it allows our fleshly desires to overcome the Spirit’s abundant willingness to empower and equip us to know and serve Jesus! Jesus taught us that apart from Him, we “can do nothing” (John 15:5). When we abide in Him, not only are we enabled to bear much fruit, but we get the joy of intimacy with our Bridegroom. As believers, prayer should be one of our greatest priorities.
Flee from the temptation of leaving prayer completely up to chance and emotion. Overcome the sin of prayerlessness by asking God to help you learn to seek Him daily in prayer.
Apply: Live It Out!
EVALUATE your personal prayer life/your relationship with Jesus. God created us to have relationship with Him. Jesus died on the cross for our sin so that we might restore our relationship with Him. Evaluate your relationship with Jesus by asking these questions:
Respond: Pray for God’s Assistance!
“Father, reveal my heart’s desire toward deepening my prayer life by the power of Your Holy Spirit! Help me Lord, to ensure that prayer is a real priority and a real blessing of empowerment in my daily life.
Teach me how to call upon You and spend quality time with You more faithfully and fully, so that my private life will allow You to work in my public life to accomplish Your will.
Lord, help me to hear You when You call me to Your side! Father, minister to our church family as we corporately seek to know Your will and ways as we deepen our daily walks with you! Amen
Suggested Scripture Readings: Ps. 55:17; Isa. 55:6; Matt. 7:7; Mark 1:35
Almighty and Holy Father, I pause to Thank You for who You are and the blessings You have graciously provided for us throughout our lives. Again, Father, I ask that You bless us as we enter the New Year. You are worthy of all our praise and thanksgiving, and we are unworthy of Your abundant love, countless mercies, amazing grace, and forgiveness You have given to us in times past. Thank You for sending Your precious Son, Jesus Christ, for offering Himself the ultimate sacrifice for all our sins. Thank You, Holy Father, that You remember our sins against us no more and that You are willing to use us no matter our failure in days past.
Father, in Your strength, we declare our readiness to be engaged in the “new beginnings” and “new opportunities” You bring into our paths. We pray that Your Will be done in our lives, in our homes, within our communities, through Your church which You positioned to proclaim the Gospel, make stronger disciples, and advance Your Kingdom throughout 2022. We thank You for walking with us through the pandemic. You know the plans You have for us through this year. We pray the plans You have for us will be revealed to us. Help us to believe that in You, we can grow and abide. As Jesus prayed, Father make us one in You. Help us to believe that we can accomplish all You have commanded us to be in Your strength. Let Your Will be done in us daily, and may the world around us take note that we are indeed Christ-followers and have demonstrated such in the ways we love and care for one another as they did in the early church.
Help us become the new creatures You are leading us to become daily. Help us to be forgiving of one another and willing to work together to accomplish Your purpose. Help us to walk honorably, to love purely, to live holy, and may we be obedient to all Your commands.
Father, help us to “Forget the former things;” to “not dwell on the past.? Help us to see clearly that “new thing” You are doing among Your people/in Your church. Help us to comprehend the “new way” You are “making in the wilderness” and the “streams” that are springing up in the “wastelands,” or “deserts.” Help us understand You have invited us to experience them with You. (Adapted from Isaiah 43: 18-19) Help us always to forgive one another as You forgive us and hold nothing against one another as You no longer hold our confessed sins against us.
Lead us away from the temptations that will daily be in our paths. Help us practice the spiritual disciplines that strengthen and enable us to live in ways that bring honor and glory to Your Name. Help us individually to lead our families, our churches, every sphere of influence we hold in a way that will advance Your Kingdom.
Father, give us strength to live out our one resolve for 2022 – that we establish Jesus Christ/His Will/His Way/His Commands as our singular priority of Christ. As He taught us in Matthew 6: 33, help us SEEK FIRST Jesus…..by placing Him first and overall, we can go forward and not be distracted by the priorities of the enemy and those caught up in the ways of the world.
Help us to make the name of Jesus known to all in our path and use our witness to bring people into the family of God. Amen!
Precious Father, we are especially blessed to pause and remember how precious You really are to us during this season of the year. Despite our sin, Your love never diminished towards us. From our sin, in the beginning, You made provision to bring us into a relationship with You for all eternity. At this time of the year, we are reminded of Your great love and provision for our sin through the celebration of the birthday of Jesus. Your love toward us is precious not just for His birth to dwell with us on earth, but through Your love toward us, He gave Himself as the final and complete sacrifice for our sin. THANK YOU, Father!!
Our prayer continues for Your kingdom to come, Your Will to be done – in our lives, our homes, our churches, at our work, and throughout our nation. Father, we desire to honor You by doing Your Will and working to achieve Your purpose.
Use this holiday season to rekindle in our hearts and actions a passion for surrendering to Your will and willingness to be used to accomplish Your purpose in all that we do as Christ-followers.
Provide for us all that we need today to accomplish Your purpose. Help us to realize that – as we abide in You, we have ALL that we need to become the men and women of faith that You have commanded us to become in You.
We ask Your forgiveness for our sinfulness – those that we have knowingly done through our disregard, indifference, and disobedience to Your Word as well as those we have unwillingly been distracted of through the efforts of the enemy and his efforts to keep us from seeing the harm our witness brings to the prayers we pray and the work we do to accomplish Your plans. As we ask Your forgiveness, we are reminded that we are to forgive those that have sinned against us/brought harm and hurt into our lives as You forgive us and remember it
against us no more.
Father, please protect us from the efforts by the enemy to destroy our witness for You each day. Go ahead of us to clear the way. Do not allow us to fall into temptation without reminding us that You are with us; there to protect and defend if we will but allow You to be Lord of our lives and submit to Your will and to Your way. Remind us today You have already defeated the enemy, and we have been delivered from him due to Jesus’ death on the cross for our sin. Father, help us walk with You each day and experience the fullness that comes in a right relationship with the Living Lord Jesus Christ.
Father, through Christ, we belong to You and are a part of Your Kingdom. Not just the kingdom that is to come in Heaven, but a part of Your Kingdom today. And it is in Your power and promises that we strive all that we can become in You to demonstrate we are a part of Your Kingdom. We desire to live a life that praises You as You deserve to be praised, honor and worship You as You deserve to be worshiped, and live a life in a way that brings glory to You this day. Father, help us today to do our part to advance Your Kingdom.
Father, this season, help us remember why Christ came to earth. You sent Him to save us from our sin. He came to give us salvation, a restored relationship with You, and the precious gift of eternal life. In the precious name of Jesus, we pray this prayer. Amen!
Today is a new day. the "new normal" has not yet arrived!! jesus/his will/his way must be our normal as his church, no matter what the day "ushers in."
The "official launch" for our new blog is 12/1/2021. The purpose of the new blog is to communicate the restructuring process and progress to our member churches. There are some exciting things coming our way! My prayer is that we will see revitalization in our churches as we commit anew to working TOGETHER to strengthen His Church and impact lostness in THIS generation.
There is a "part of me" that wants to call this blog, HIS CHURCH, TOGETHER ON MISSION--As Tar River Baptist Association. As I have shared before, we need to fully understand that the word "association" is NOT a noun. Rather, it IS a verb! Working together, we can accomplish His purpose. Working together, we can minister in His Name to hurting people - offering help, healing, and HOPE to the people God has positioned to be in our "mission field." I honestly believe God holds us accountable - as His church - to reaching the communities He has placed under our care at this time. In COOPERATION with each other, we can accomplish His purpose. I do not believe God has called us to become "silos," working alone to impact lostness. The mission - as He laid it out - if for us to come together to accomplish His purpose. Together, we are to seek Him. Together, we are to reach out to meet the needs of our communities. Together, we are to be united to His purpose and committed to do all we can in His strength to reach our world for Christ.
In 2017, TRBA determined to begin our "restructuring" process. We recognized a lot needed to change if we were to thrive as His church in this generation and maintain a powerful presence in the next. COVID entered the mix and we discovered even greater needs for us to work together as His church in our geographic area. The communities we serve, need a healthy and proactive church on mission for His Kingdom. Together, we can be the church our communities need us to become in Him!
As I write this post, health officials are alerting us to yet another variant of the COVID virus. More changes will come -- and, I believe it is safe to say -- this "New Normal" we are looking to come and provide a level playing field/something to remain constant for our lives, will NEVER serve as our Savior. The answer lies ONLY In Jesus!
In our own strength, we can survive (for a season). In His strength, we can THRIVE!! Jesus has to become our "normal" (our rock, our fortress, etc.), and then we can thrive no matter the ever changing variants of this - and every other - virus! THIS IS A NEW DAY and I believe we should accept it as such. God is giving us another season to shine brightly in the communities where He has placed us!!
It is up to us to fervently seek Him in prayer. It is up to us to commit anew to becoming His church and work together with other Christ-followers to accomplish His purpose. Together -- ON MISSION -- we can become the church God has called us to become in Him. We are asking that each of us make a fresh commitment to becoming His church and working together with our sister churches, let's renew our efforts to impact lostness and bring our communties to Christ!
Expect more in the days ahead.