Prayer – Does It Work?

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Matthew 26:41

A friend once told me he’d prayed for God to take away the pain during a season of severe abuse and it didn’t work. The abuse – and the pain – continued.

Other people have prayed that a loved one would be healed from cancer or disease and still watched them die. Or for someone to be freed from addiction only to watch them waste away, enslaved to a substance.

So many people live out stories like this and conclude that prayer doesn’t work. And in strictly consumer terms, it doesn’t.

Prayer is not a thing like a soda machine or a streaming channel where you make your selection, enter your currency, and receive what you ordered. Prayer isn’t an order at all. A prayer can be a request, but in our native human selfishness, I think we forget that requests are not guaranteed.

I might request a raise from my boss and be denied; just as I might request God heal me from ME/CFS, but He might whisper instead, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

But let’s imagine for a moment prayer did work like a vending machine. What currency would we use to pay for our purchase? Hmm… there’s a tricky one. Even if prayer did operate on the same principle, are we really willing to count the cost and ante up? Food for thought.

However, prayer is so much more than making requests from the Almighty. In our topsy-turvy way, our fixation on requests highlight the glaring truth of who we truly believe is in charge. But we are wrong; God is not our waiter. In reality, we should be the ones taking orders, not Him.

Other than our tendency to look at the situation backwards and upside down, there’s another point I want to make. To say prayer doesn’t work is equivalent to saying conversation doesn’t work.

Prayer, like conversation, only works if both parties are talking about the same thing. One major breakdown in prayer seems to occur because God is talking to us about eternity and how He designed us to operate and we are talking about feelings we can’t even define from moment to moment.

I mean, honestly, we aren’t doing very good with definitions these days anyway. How can we expect to understand the still, small whispers of Truth when we’ve convoluted simple observations of basic biology into intricate fantasy worlds? But that’s a different discussion…

Prayer does work. But it works on my heart and on my sin, not on my terms.

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, emphasis mine

A Matter of Life and Death

For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.

John 5:21

Our world fails to understand the gravity of sin.

Then again, as The Book says, there is nothing new under the sun1. My Lord lived in the same world. The dates were different, the world population was smaller, and the day’s technological marvels would fail to impress the hyper-stimulated modern cynic.

Yet people haven’t changed in the slightest. From the temptation of Eve to the very second you read these words, human beings have underestimated the horror of sin.

To illustrate my point, Mark 2:1-2 tells of a time when four friends lowered their paralyzed buddy through the roof of a crowded building so he could see Jesus. Upon seeing the unfortunate fellow, Jesus declared to him, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

But the crowd wasn’t impressed until Jesus spoke again and the paralyzed man regained the use of his body.

In a similar way, our prayer requests often reflect a deeper fear of physical suffering than fear we will be guilty of gossip. We are afraid of being murdered while murdering people with our tongues. And yet the truth is, unless we accept the Son of God as our Master, we are already dead.

As it’s been said, Jesus didn’t come to show us how to be good. He came to breathe life into our animated corpses. This life and death dynamic is what I’ve been mulling over after reading and re-reading John 5 a few days ago.

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

John 5:24

Friends, Jesus stepped down into a world ruined by sin and took a stand against this great death-bringer. For a time, He forsook His rightful glory and the joys of perfect union in the mysterious community of the Triune and lived as a man. He endured temptation as a man, but He alone never gave into it and so He alone was a fully living Man.

Because of this, His willingness to trade His singular purity secures value sufficient to cover our debt – for we have sinned and earned death; He refused sin and traded His matchless gift for our wages to any who will accept His offer2.

But we must choose to accept His gift of life.

Instead, we bicker and squabble over temporary concerns, pointing out specks in the eyes of others while ignoring the massive planks that blind us3. We pray for health and comfort while using both to drink down death, serving self instead of our Sovereign. In so many ways, we sin, and we do not see it for what it is – the truest and most horrible death. Because we are addicted to death, we refuse to submit to the One who came to offer life.

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

John 5:39-40

Don’t miss out on this chance, friends. As the days darken and the rumbles of war send tremors across every land, don’t forget that all sin is death.

Sin is a gilded cage, a poison that tastes like ambrosia. The happiness it promises is fleeting at best, a hollow satisfaction all too easily imploding under the least pressure. Sooner or later, the sweetest sin gives its captives a taste of hell on earth – the flavor of death to taint this life with the enemy’s own eternal destination, one he wants you to share.

Misery, as is said, loves company.

But sin isn’t the victor unless you allow it. The Son of Man still stands ready to receive all who belong to Him. Even now, the One greater than Moses says, “I have set before you today life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life…4

Turn away from your sin. You are only captive if you want to be. You can turn to the Son of God who came to give you life5 – a sweet taste of it here and now to infuse life’s sorrows with the essence of eternal joy in the presence of God. Jesus

Jesus alone can replace the musty tang of death with the delightful savor of life. But the choice is yours.

1Ecclesiastes 1:9; 2Romans 6:23; 3Matthew 7:3-5; 4Deuteronomy 30:19; 5John 10:10

Alien

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:27

I’m sitting at my desk, eighteen days into the year 2022 and near the end of my second quarantine, thinking about how absurd it is for humanity to discuss the idea of normalcy.

Ever since the Big Pause in early 2020, I’ve participated in the global lament, pining for life to get back to normal. This year certainly didn’t begin normally, as my I mentioned a couple of posts ago, and it hasn’t continued normally either. At least, it hasn’t felt normal.

This makes me laugh a little. As if any human being on the planet has ever felt what it means to be normal!

The truth is, our world only ever hosted three normal people in its entire history. Two of them later turned their backs on perfection and invited in decay. The Other was God Incarnate.

Ever since the first couple disobeyed and the sin curse has corrupted the earth and all it contains with its wretched malignancy, we have lost normal. The senses by which we collect information along with the very fabric of our reason has been warped with this taint. If there is anything mankind is, it cannot be described as normal.

But Yeshua (Jesus) came to restore normal; to inoculate the festering darkness of the human heart with an His purity and light. He came to offer us the cure; so we may choose to allow His Spirit to transform us, renewing our minds, providing glimpses of the sane and wholesome world He intended. Even better, He came to usher us to join Him in eternal life in its perfect and wonderful normalcy.

One great and future Day, He will come again. Eventually, reality as we know it will crumble into ash and a new and normal heavens and earth will take its place.

Until then, we can look into His Word and catch glimpses of normal, though our sin-ravaged brains struggle to comprehend it. Still, we can see it dimly, like looking at our reflection in polished metal. And we can trust with confidence that the alien thing sin has made us into can be restored through trusting in the One normal Man who ever lived, died, and rose again on this earth.

Perspective

While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.
But their eyes were kept from recognizing him.

Luke 24:15-16

Some things never change.

When Jesus of Nazareth walked the dusty streets of the Middle East as a Man, His ministry evoked a wide range of emotions from God’s chosen people. He had His detractors, of course; people who hated His inconvenient tendency to tear down self-righteous facades and expose the unseemly rot within the human heart.

But even among His supporters were an astonishing number who loved Him for what they expected Him to do. They watched His ministry with excitement, anticipating the the moment He would declare Himself Judah’s King and lead them in revolt against the oppressive Roman government. They missed out on the greater freedom He actually came to provide.

Fast forward a couple thousand years, and we find a similar mix of emotions.

It’s not surprising many people continue to hate the uncomfortable teachings of Jesus concerning sin and sacrifice. What surprises me is this: Despite Jesus’s clear statements – recorded in the Word – that His Kingdom is not of this world, there are still SO MANY who are looking for the King of kings to bring political and socioeconomic peace.

I suppose it was naïve of me to believe His followers today would listen to His words more than those who saw Him in the flesh. Both then and now, however, the truth of Jesus hasn’t changed. He didn’t give His life to reform our governments, cultures, or social systems.

He gave it to reform us.

This fact is worth repeating. The Lamb of God was not sacrificed to make the world a better place to live but to save each one of us from the penalty of our own crimes against our Creator.

Jesus came because we are the reason the world is in its present state.

The effects of sin are so pervasive, every element of our lives is twisted by them – including our understanding of right and wrong, of truth and justice. Sin’s putrefaction is so complete as to taint even our most noble deeds with the foul reek of death.

Until the glorious Day when the Lord comes again, this world will not be a nice place to live. In fact, it’s even predicted in the Scriptures that it will get worse.

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

2 Timothy 3:12-13

For those of us who are truly in Christ Jesus, this is not bad news. The worst other men can do is to kill us, and as Paul wrote, “To live is Christ and to die is gain.”

While we remain here, our mission is to tell others of our great Hope – that although we are born into separation from our Maker with hearts filled with evil in a world corrupted into chaos, our God loves us so much that He gave His Divine Son to bridge the impossible gap so we could once more be reunited with Him, both in the midst of this crooked generation and forever long after this age is ancient history.

This is the Good News. This is the Gospel.

But don’t take my word for it. Search the Scriptures for yourself with a humble and prayerful heart.

Wise Words

When you get sick, and sad, and weary of God’s people, turn your thoughts to God Himself; and if ever you see any spots in the Church, Christ’s bride, look at her glorious Husband, and you will only love Him the more as you think of His wondrous condescension in having loved such a poor thing as His Church is even at her best.

C. H. Spurgeon

Back in the days of my atheism, I had a ridiculous habit. OK, I had several ridiculous habits, but one of the silliest was a tendency to judge Christianity by Christians.

This, of course, is foolish; akin to judging the entire field of theoretical physics by the mathematical expertise of the world’s preschool students.

If you want to rightly assess Christianity, the Person to examine is Yeshua Messiah, aka Jesus Christ. He is the one who set the standard. His Church are the ones learning how to live up to it – one computational error at a time.

Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;

it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”

Revelation 19:7-9

Friday Flora: Increase

And she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.”

1 Kings 17:12

Y’all, it’s getting real here in the Davis household. COVID Madness has infected certain companies, leading those who run them to fretfulness.

And a fretful company is not a good thing. They start searching for heavy things to pitch overboard to keep the thing floating high above the waves.

Thus, yours truly is officially back in the workforce, this time serving in a very different role than the recent short-term positions. All things considered, I’m grateful to be helping a litttle with the family income – especially in the middle of COVID Madness.

An older, less experienced me would be pretty darn nervous right now. Instead, the present me is pondering the many things I’ve written in my Ebenezer Journal (aka – my journal reminding me, “Thus far, the Lord has helped us.” See 1 Samuel 7:12 if you need a reminder.)

I need those reminders sometimes. Especially when large bills loom and small numbers cower before them.

But thus far, the Lord has helped us. And you know what? He has already taken our tiny little faith and our itty-bitty obedience and amplified the results far beyond anything I ever thought possible when I nursed my first baby, unsure how we’d pay the full amount of the next month’s rent.

So while the numbers in my bank account may tremble a bit in the shadow of bills to come, this girl isn’t trembling at all. Because I serve a God who is able to do far more abundantly beyond anything I ever asked or thought.

He has never failed to provide. Never. He’s even provided amply enough for us to be generous.

We haven’t always had all the things we want. But we’ve never done without the things we need.

Sometimes He provides just in the nick time, often we have to work to pay for some foolish choices, but He’s never been late.

It’s from experience that I trust my God – the God who is able to take a little bit of faith, a handful of flour, and a few drops of oil and multiply it to cover the needs of one generous widow, her son, and their guest.

He’s already provided me with salvation from my sins, a family, a more amazing life than I ever deserved, this current job, and so much more.

I trust my God with my whole heart, in little or in plenty. How could I not? I have Him! I have the Lord my God; my Savior Yeshua; my King!

Whether we return to times of plenty or continue in times of want, my heart is full.

Because in Christ, I have all I need.

Not that I am speaking of being in need, 
for I have learned in whatever situation I am
to be content.
I know how to be brought low, 
and I know how to abound. 
In any and every circumstance, 
I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, 
abundance and need.
I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:11-13

Words of Truth

For you are great and do wondrous things; you alone are God. 
Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; 
unite my heart to fear your name. 
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, 
and I will glorify your name forever.
(Psalm, 86:10-12)
Miami mist
Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. 
Lead me in your truth and teach me, 
for you are the God of my salvation; 
for you I wait all the day long.
(Psalm 25:4-5)
Daisy Fleabane, pink variety
For you are the God in whom I take refuge; 
why have you rejected me? 
Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; 
let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!
(Psalm 43:2-3)
White Daisy Fleabane
And take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your rules....
The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.
(Psalm 119:143, 160)
Dutchman’s Breeches
Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 
As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 
And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.
(John 17:17-19)
Persian Speedwell
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
(John 8:31-32)
Carolina Geranium with Blue Fieldmadder

Father, let those of us who are in Christ be diligent in handling the truth. Let us walk in truth and spread truth. Above all, in a worldwide flood of information where people are needing truth, prompt us to spread Your Truth – the truth of the Gospel and of Yeshua who IS the Way, the Truth, and the Life, amen.

All Things New

The following is the December devotional I wrote for my church family. I wanted to share it with you for Christmas. I’ll be taking a break with my family (and hopefully finishing the first draft of my book) for the next few weeks, so merry Christmas to you and may the Lord draw you closer to Him in the year to come!

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

2 Corinthians 5:17

As a teenager, I believed I would die at the age of 26. I had no health problems and the number seemed arbitrary, yet the idea remained lodged in my mind.

Then in early adulthood, a series of poor decisions spiraled my life into chaos and the years slid away. My 26th birthday came and went unnoticed, eclipsed by life events more pressing than the passage of another year.

Mere weeks later, I sat on the edge of the bathtub in my apartment staring at a positive pregnancy test. Once I opened the bathroom door, I would have to face the baby’s father, a man I barely knew, and admit our lives were forever changed.

And they were. That year, that pregnancy, marked the beginning of God’s work in my life and heart – a work that took a broken, lost, and angry atheist and transformed her into a passionate lover of God, His Word, and His people.

I was a married homeschool mom of three before the Lord reminded me of my morbid adolescent certainty. Oddly enough, I’d been right. At age 26, I died to myself and begin to live for God. Everything I had been, every goal and ambition, changed radically that year. The old me had passed away; the new had come.

Nearly two decades have passed, and my life before and after Christ are as different as stone and water. To me, 2 Corinthians 5:17 is not just a pretty platitude. It is truth, raw and real.

Perhaps because of this, when I read Luke 2, I do not picture the idealized and brightly colored manger scene often displayed on Christmas cards.

Instead, I visualize sweat on Mary’s brow as she inhales the mingled stink of animal manure and blood. I feel her confusion as she wonders, “Is this how it’s supposed to be, God?” I imagine Joseph struggling to keep animals from jostling the newborn Child as they poke their noses into a trough that should hold their dinner but instead holds this Baby.

And I picture the Babe Himself lying there, straw poking His newborn skin through cloth scraps like a premonition of the nails that will one day pierce His flesh. In my mind’s eye, the shadow of the Cross obscures the Infant’s features.

Do you see it? Embodied in helpless human infancy is THE King of kings. In an unthinkable act of humility and sacrificial love, He willingly lay aside boundless power, confining Himself to the stuff of His own creation.

Learning to walk, to talk, enduring the pain of birth and of human life only to grow into a Man who will take on the sin of the world – and greater pain still – to finally settle the price of redemption for the creatures He loves. For the creatures who even now reject Him.

And someday, that King will return. Someday, He will make ALL things new. To this new creation in Christ, that is the true joy of Christmas!

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

Revelation 21:3-5
  • Spend some time reflecting on the implications of the Almighty confining Himself to the form of an infant human being. Is any act of humility He asks of you greater than what He has already done for you?
  • Ask the Lord to show you if you’ve been clinging to any of the “old things” from your pre-Christ life and to help you let them pass away.
  • How can you show your gratitude to God for the gift of new life in Christ He has given you?