Prayers That Never Die

E.M. Bounds, the well-known writer on prayer, once said “God shapes the world by prayer. Prayers are deathless. They outlive the lives of those who uttered them.”

Fascinating. It’s exciting to think that some of the prayers I prayed that never seemed to make much difference might still be out there somewhere still working away. And that they might actually outlive me… and shape something in the future after I’m long gone.
Nice thought, but is it really true? Or just wishful thinking?
No, actually it’s a very real Biblical concept. Note these places in the Bible where prayer is considered deathless:
  • “And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.” (Revelation 5:8 NIV). In this scene, some of the heavenly beings are holding bowls full of the prayers of God’s people. Prayer exists in heaven. And prayers spoken in the past influence heaven.
  • “Another angel, who had a golden censer, came and stood at the altar. He was given much incense to offer, with the prayers of all the saints, on the golden altar before the throne. 4The smoke of the incense, together with the prayers of the saints, went up before God from the angel’s hand. 5Then the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and hurled it on the earth; and there came peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.” (Revelation 8:3-5 NIV). The prayers of God’s people on earth have made it to heaven, where angels store them up and unleash them on the earth, completing the circuit and bringing powerful answers.
  • “Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.'” (Luke 23:34 NIV). Jesus’ prayer was answered after his death, burial, resurrection and ascension. After he was in heaven, it was answered in Acts 2:36-41 when 3,000 of the people who had called for his crucifixion became believers. And that prayer is still working today.
  • “While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed… ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.'” (Acts 7:59-60 NIV). Stephen’s Christ-like prayer was answered after he died. One of the young men giving approval to Stephen’s death was Saul, who later found forgiveness and became the Apostle Paul.
George Muller, the great man of faith who built debt-free orphanages by simply asking God for the money, once prayed for five of his friends to become Christians. Four of them found peace in Christ during Muller’s lifetime, but one of the didn’t become a Christian until after Muller’s death. He had prayed for the man for 52 years, but the answer only came after George Muller died.
I’ve decided to keep on praying no matter what. You never know when the answer will surprise you, even after you’re in heaven.
Have you seen other cases where prayers outlived the one who prayed?

How Did Jesus Get So Spiritual? Part Two

If I can understand how Jesus got so spiritual, maybe I can duplicate it… at least I can imitate his spiritual habits, therefore growing into something like his spirituality.

So what habits did he practice in order to grow spiritually? We found out in the last blog that “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” (Luke 2:52 NIV). So his powerful spiritual life grew out of his habits rather than coming upon him instantly.

And last time we also looked at some of these spirit-building habits:

  • study of the word
  • service to other people
  • consistent prayer

Also, some of the comments on that first blog brought out two other productive habits of Jesus’ spiritual life: he obeyed his parents and he persisted without giving up in the face of persecution.

Here are some of Jesus’ other habits that grew him spiritually:

  1. Fasting. Jesus both taught and practiced this often-neglected spiritual discipline. He fasted 40 days in the wilderness after the Spirit led him there to be tested by Satan (Luke 4:1-13). He withstood this fiery trial because of his habit of fasting and prayer. He didn’t even begin his public ministry until this trial had been won by fasting.  And he taught his disciples, “When you fast (not if) do not look somber as the hypocrites do… But when you fast (not if) put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting…” -Matthew 6:16-18 NIV (emphasis added).
  2. Worship. With Jesus, worship wasn’t reserved for formal occasions. Once when 72 of his disciples returned from ministering in the Spirit’s power, Jesus “full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, ‘I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and revealed them to little children.'” -Luke 10:21 NIV. And in his confrontation with Satan, Jesus said, “For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'” -Matthew 4:10 NIV.
  3. Surrender. One of the highest-level spiritual habits Jesus practiced, and one of the hardest we attempt, is surrender. Amazingly, Jesus once said, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only  what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” -John 5:19 NIV. If Jesus couldn’t accomplish anything without his Father, then I must learn the same sort of surrender to have any chance at growing spiritually.

Jesus also spoke about this type of surrender by saying, “Those who love the life they have now will lose it. But those who are willing to give up their life in this world will keep it. They will have eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me. My servants must be with me everywhere I am. My Father will give honor to anyone who serves me.” -John 12:25-26 ERV.

Can you think of other spiritual disciplines that Jesus practiced? Give us your insights…

How Did Jesus Get So Spiritual?

Did you ever wonder how Jesus became the spiritual man we read about in the Bible? How did this carpenter from Nazareth in the Middle East grow to become the spiritual leader who changed the whole world? Did it just happen, like Superman launching out of the phone booth dressed and ready for action? Or did it happen more gradually, like an oak tree growing slowly from an acorn?

Certainly, as the Son of God, he already had the Divine Spirit living in him; he was God in flesh (John 1:1-14). But the Bible indicates that Jesus had to grow into his destiny as the iconic spiritual man walking in the flesh of Adam – “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” (Luke 2:52 NIV).

So, how did this growth process take place? What did Jesus himself do to grow into his full spiritual stature?

Professor Dallas Willard wrote a thought-provoking book on that idea several years ago called, “The Spirit of The Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives”. In that book, he mentioned that Jesus practiced several spiritual disciplines.

His list is too long to duplicate right now, but here are some basic disciplines that Jesus practiced to grow as a spiritual man:

1. Study. Jesus lived in a rich Jewish tradition of respect for the word. It’s clear as you read his life story in the Gospels that he knew the Bible – the Law, Prophets and Psalms – better than anyone else. He once said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17 NIV) And when tempted by Satan in the wilderness for 40 days, Jesus used the Scriptures as the “Sword of the Spirit”, demolishing all of the evil one’s arguments by saying, “it is written”. (Luke 4:1-13)

2. Service. Jesus’ example stood miles above his religious detractors because he put into practice the things he learned from Scripture. Once when his disciples entered the room to observe the Passover, Jesus noticed that no one volunteered to wash everyone’s feet (a normal, customary thing to do when entering a meal). So he “got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet..” (John 13:4-5 NIV)

This horrified Peter who, at first, refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet. How could the Messiah stoop so low as to wash the feet of his own disciples? Jesus did it to serve, to leave an example for his disciples, and to show that he was submissive to his Father’s word (See Isaiah 42:1-4 where the Messiah is predicted to be a gentle servant.)

3. Prayer. “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.” (Mark 1:35 NIV). This kind of commitment to prayer weaves itself in and out of the Gospel accounts. Jesus prayed often and he prayed for hours at a time, even sometimes praying all night.

In my book, Why God Waits For You To Pray, you’ll find an appendix that chronicles 17 major prayer events in Jesus’ life, and another one listing the 15 major “seminars’ Jesus taught on prayer. Jesus believed in prayer. And he practiced it with an intensity and commitment that awes us and pulls us forward to follow his example.

Can you think of any other spiritual disciplines that Jesus practiced? Share your insights with us…