Alone Time With the Father

Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes in Life Together:

Whoever cannot be alone should be aware of community. Such people will only do harm to themselves and to the community. Alone you stood before God when God called you. Alone you had to obey God’s voice. Alone you had to take up your cross, struggle, and pray, and alone you will die and give an account to God. You cannot avoid yourself, for it is precisely God who has called you out. If you do not want to be alone, you are rejecting Christ’s call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called.

The word community is thrown around quite a bit in Christian circles today. But our gatherings can be toxic if we do not spend time alone with God. I’ve been in many groups where people share their insights. The problem is not only that our insights are not as profound as we think they are, but that we’re so eager to share thoughts originating in our own minds, when we have a God who says,

          My thoughts are not your thoughts,
               neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
          For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
               so are my ways higher than your ways
               and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8–9)

I want to know the thoughts of God. I want to gather with people who have been reading God’s words, people who have prayed and interacted with him. I want to fellowship with those who fellowship with God. I couldn’t care less if you have a doctorate in theology or sixty years of life experience. I would rather talk with a fifteen-year-old who has been in the presence of God. ~ Francis Chan

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Scripture to Picture, Desrie Jesus

Matthew 4:5-7New International Version (NIV)

 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.  “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    and they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”

 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

God Has Promised

Deuteronomy 12:7
“There, in the presence of the Lord your God, you and your families shall eat and shall rejoice in everything you have put your hand to, because the Lord your God has blessed you”.

Why Did You Come?

If you have come to Jesus, the wonder is that you already belonged to the Father, and the Father gave you to Jesus. You were not chosen because you came; you came because you were chosen. That’s what Jesus said: “All that the Father gives me will come to me. . . . Yours they were, and you gave them to me” (John 6:37; 17:6).

How’s your prayer life? (Desiring God)

Hardly any question — unless perhaps if someone asks about your evangelistic efforts — can cause more chin-dropping, foot-shuffling embarrassment for Christians than asking about their prayer life.

Why is that? Why do so many followers of Jesus suffer with such unsatisfying prayer lives and consider themselves hopelessly second-rate Christians because of it?

Method Is Our Madness

For almost all followers of Jesus, I believe the problem in prayer is not with the quality of the Christian, but with the method of their prayer.

Of course, no change in method will make prayer consistently meaningful to someone who is spiritually dead. But it’s different for those who are spiritually alive. They are born again through faith in Christ and indwelled by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s presence causes them as God’s children to cry, “Abba, Father!” (Romans 8:15Galatians 4:6), giving them a Godward orientation they didn’t have before.

In other words, all those indwelled by the Holy Spirit really do want to pray. And if an individual Christian sincerely seeks to live for Christ, and has no specific sin issue that he or she refuses to confess and fight against, then the basic problem in prayer is not with sin or failure, but with method.

And what is the method of prayer for most Christians? It’s this: When we pray, we tend to say the same old things about the same old things. Sooner or later, that kind of prayer is boring. When prayer is boring, you don’t feel like praying. And when you don’t feel like praying, you don’t pray — at least with any fervency or consistency. Prayer feels much more like duty than delight.

The problem is not that we pray about the same old things. To pray about the same things most of the time is normal. That’s because our lives tend to consist of the same things from one day to the next. Thankfully, dramatic changes in our lives usually don’t occur very often.

No, the problem isn’t that we pray about the same old things; the problem is that we tend to say the same old things about the same old things. The result is that we can be talking to the most fascinating Person in the universe about the most important things in our lives — and be bored to death.

So we can experience boredom in prayer, not because we don’t love God, and not because we don’t love who or what we’re praying about, but because of our method.

Solution in the Spirit

What is the solution? Well, whatever it is, it must be simple. God has children all over the planet, and they represent the widest imaginable diversity in language, culture, age, IQ, education, and Christian privilege (such as access to a Bible preaching church, Christian books, Christian content online, and more). If all these believers, despite the various and dramatic differences among them, are invited to pray, then prayer must be doable by all God’s children.

The simple solution to the seemingly universal problem of saying the same old things about the same old things in prayer is this: Pray the Bible. In other words, slowly read a passage of Scripture and pray about all that comes to mind as you read.

Do this, and you’ll never again be left to say the same old things in prayer.

Simple, Powerful, Biblical

Praying the Bible isn’t complicated. Read through a few verses of Scripture, pause at the end of each phrase or verse, and pray about what the words suggest to you.

Suppose you are praying your way through Psalm 23. After reading verse one — “The Lord is my shepherd” — you might begin by thanking Jesus for being your Shepherd. Next you might ask him to shepherd your family, making your children or grandchildren his sheep, causing them to love him as their great Shepherd too. After that you might pray for your undershepherds at the church, that Jesus would shepherd them as they shepherd you.

Then, when nothing else comes to mind, you go to the next line, “I shall not want.” You might thank him that you’ve never been in real want, or pray for someone — perhaps someone you know, or for a Christian in a place of persecution — who is in want.

You would continue through the psalm until you run out of time. You wouldn’t run out of anything to say (if you did, you could just go to another psalm), and best of all, that prayer would be unlike any you’ve ever prayed in your life.

That means if you’ll pray the Bible, you’ll never again say the same old things about the same old things. You don’t need any notes or books or any plan to remember. Simply talk to God about what comes to mind as you go line-by-line through his word.

As John Piper puts it, “Open the Bible, start reading it, and pause at every verse and turn it into a prayer.”

If nothing comes to mind, go to the next verse. If you don’t understand that verse, go to the next one. If the following verse is crystal clear, but doesn’t prompt anything to pray about, read on. If you want to linger long over a single verse, pray from and about that verse as long as you want.

By this method, your prayers will be guided and shaped by Scripture, and be far more in conformity to the word and will of God than they will if you always make up your own prayers.

Jesus prayed the Bible in Matthew 27:46 and Luke 23:46, and the early church prayed the Bible in Acts 4:23–26, and so can you.

Commend Them to Christ!

Oh, you who want unfailing comfort, I commend you to Christ! In Him alone there is no failure. Rich men are disappointed in their treasures. Learned men are disappointed in their books. Husbands are disappointed in their wives. Wives are disappointed in their husbands. Parents are disappointed in their children. Statesmen are disappointed when, after many a struggle, they attain place and power. They find out, to their cost, that it is more pain than pleasure—that it is disappointment, annoyance, incessant trouble, worry, vanity, and vexation of spirit. But no man was ever disappointed in Christ. ~ J.C. Ryle

Rest in The Living Water

Jeremiah 17:7-8English Standard Version (ESV)

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
    whose trust is the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
    that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
    for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
    for it does not cease to bear fruit.”