Formulas for Prayer

I’ve read all kinds of kooky articles and a few short books about “magic prayers” in my time, but recently I saw some posts on social media that shared Bible verses and biblical thoughts about prayer. Some years back, I did an extensive study about what the Bible says about the discipline of prayer. But for this post, I’d like to share some of the “formulas” for prayer in the Bible.

What kinds of prayer does God honor?

How can we be sure our prayers are getting higher than the ceiling?

The first prayer that God is for sure going to answer is the call for salvation. He might choose to answer an unsaved person’s other prayers, as well, but we can be sure He will answer this one: For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13).

When the disciples wanted instructions on how to pray, Jesus replied with what we know as “The Lord’s Prayer.” It’s a model for everyone. What should we include in our prayers? Jesus says, After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen (Matthew 6:9-13).

We’re to be in communication with God all the time. Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17). And he (Jesus) spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint (Luke 18:1).

Jesus also instructed the disciples to pray believing: And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you (Matthew 17:20).

Similar to this is praying with faith, And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him (James 5:15).

A wonderful formula for prayer is trusting, even when we don’t quite understand. Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

This formula helps us see the value of prayer to ask and also give thanks. Be careful (full of care, anxious) for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7). Notice that the result of praying like this is awesome peace.

Here are a couple more verses about praying with thanksgiving. There are many. I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving (Psalm 69:30). Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20).

We need to ask the Lord to lead us in His way, not ours. Teach me thy way, O LORD, and lead me in a plain path, because of mine enemies (Psalm 27:11). Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass (Psalm 37:5).

Something very important is to know how to ask. We need to ask the Lord according to His will. The only way we can know what that is is to learn what the Bible (God’s Word) says about things. And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us (1 John 5:14).

There is definitely power when Christians pray together. Jesus is speaking: Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven (Matthew 18:19).

I am not sure if you actually have to say the words “in Jesus’ name we pray,” but we need to be conscious of how we are praying. Jesus says, And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it (John 14:13-14).

God will answer seekers and askers. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you (Matthew 7:7).

He also answers sincere, repentent, intercessory prayers. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much (James 5:16). Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints (Ephesians 6:18).

I personally love this verse: Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah (Psalm 62:8). Do you need a refuge? Pour your heart out to the Lord.

Just as the Bible gives us encouragement in prayer, it also gives us warnings about praying like people who don’t know God.

What should we not do?

Don’t be a showy hypocrite. And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him (Matthew 6:5-8).

Don’t look down on your wife; honor her as equal but different. Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered (1 Peter 3:7).

Don’t be unforgiving. And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses (Mark 11:25).

Prayer is an awesome privilege and an incredible spiritual tool. It is so amazing that we have 24/7 access to God, that He hears, listens, and answers prayers from needy people. Let’s take advantage of it and enjoy our Refuge and Help.

Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

God bless you!

When you’re gleaning in your field and “Boaz” never comes

I have heard the messages, and they’re not entirely wrong:

  • Stay in the castle.
  • Wait for Mr. Right.
  • Prepare yourself, and God will bring a husband to you.
  • Be like Ruth. She did the right thing, and Boaz showed up.

But, Boaz doesn’t always show up.

And that’s okay.

The way I read my Bible, I see two clear paths for both men and women. There are a lot of single people in God’s will, and there are a lot of married people.

The Apostle Paul—always a single man—wrote, He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please his wife. Statement of fact. There are two roles. The will of God for Paul was singleness, but there are two clear paths and two different lifestyles, both in the will of God.

Here, the same teaching is for women: There is difference also between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband (1 Corinthians 7:32-34).

Since I write for women, we will talk about the second part. Single women are supposed to be conscious of and caring for the things of the Lord. How does she do that? She—like her married counterpart—gets to know God in salvation and in Christian growth and service. I honestly don’t see any difference between a single’s walk with God and a married woman’s. 

The single woman also keeps herself holy (without sin) in body and spirit. Obviously, she’s supposed to be a virgin, and she’s to guard her body in holiness. I think it’s interesting that God adds “spirit” to this. It is very important.

How many singles do you know who have been waiting and waiting and waiting for their handsome prince to come—and each year that they wait, they are getting more and more anxious and bitter and antsy, looking out the window for him to show up—to no avail? Which makes them more anxious and bitter and antsy. It’s an ugly cycle.

This idea comes from false teaching—that everyone needs to be married—and from false expectations.

Waiting for Boaz is not a principle in the Word of God.

There, I’ve said it.

It simply isn’t God’s will (His best plan) for every woman to marry. This doesn’t mean He’s withholding something wonderful from you. This doesn’t mean you’re missing out.

Let’s look back at 1 Corinthians 7:34, the last part: she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please her husband. A single woman doesn’t have to live for the world. She doesn’t have to please a husband. Oh my!

Her purpose is to please God—like every Christian woman—and to keep herself pure—like every Christian woman.

The difference is the pleasing a man part.

Let that sink in.

A single woman frankly has more freedom. She doesn’t have to make dinner every evening if she doesn’t feel like it. Even though single women have to work and care for themselves, they don’t have to also please a roommate.

I’ve been married over 41 years now and happily so. I know a few things about marriage. But, I’ve also learned that God has designed two happy lifestyles for Christians, and they are both full and satisfying and wonderful.

Read your Bible. Make a collection in your mind of all the singles in the Bible with very satisfying lives. Make a list, if you want. Which ones were always sad and bitter? What was their problem?

How can you live a victorious life?

Forget Boaz.

Look to the Lord.

Enjoy your life.

Trust … in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy (Paul, to Timothy—both were single men—from 1 Timothy 6:17).

May God bless you.

Fiction review: The Ticket

The Ticket, by Debra Coleman Jeter is a coming-of-age novel about a girl named Tray. She lives with her mother, dad, and grandmother. Sometimes her mother can be sweet, but more often than not, Tray takes care of her mother and suffers her criticism. Her mom is mentally ill and seems to be bi-polar in actions and words. Tray has no idea what will come next. Her father is gone a lot and doesn’t try to communicate when he’s home. Only the grandmother shows her consistent love.

Tray is tall and gangly and uncomfortable with her looks—not helped by having a gorgeous mother who criticizes her for not being pretty. She’s left out of the cool group at school and going through typical adolescent thoughts and mood swings. I get the impression she’s around twelve years old, the book says she’s fourteen. Tray tends to deal with people by making snide remarks. Tray loves clothes—though she can’t afford many new ones—and draws the clothes she wishes she had.

Near the beginning of the story, her father wins the lottery—thus the book’s title. All through the book this fact is handled masterfully. I absolutely loved this plot thread.

As the story develops, a man flashes Tray and almost kidnaps her, and following that trauma are several family disasters in rapid succession.

Debra Jeter is an excellent writer and weaves the story of Tray’s family and personal issues so well that you hardly perceive it. I read the Kindle version and found no errors. She writes wonderfully crafted sentences, and the plot is very good. The ending is satisfying and sweet.

But, I can’t recommend this book because of too much information about: personal bodily functions, adolescent development, and the way-too-graphic flasher scene. I would never recommend it for any teen. The Ticket is realistic, but I don’t think several of these details help anyone’s thoughts (Philippians 4:8).

Also, though this is a “Christian” book, there are few true Christians in it and no clarity at all with them. The grandmother reads her Bible and sometimes quotes a verse—as well as pithy, non-biblical sayings. I get the impression she is a true Christian. There’s another family that seems to be Christian, but there’s nothing more. The lack of any spirituality left me feeling disappointed.

Also, be aware of: immodest clothing, mild language (that alludes to but stops just short of a curse word), and gambling (not glorified).

My sincere hope is that the author will use her incredible talent to write a truly redemptive story in the future.

Proverbs 6, Part 1

In our study of Proverbs, we get a lot of practical advice. Remember, this is both a message from father to son and the inspired Word of God. When we read any book of the Bible, we need to see what’s there for us—which is, frankly, all of it. What is God saying to us? How can we learn from this passage? How can I put what I’ve learned into practice? All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

In Proverbs 6, there are two distinct sections. One (verses 1-19) is a collection of various items of good, practical advice. The other is a warning about fornication and adultery (verses 20-35). So, let’s see what we learn.

The first five verses are about promising to pay exhorbitant interest rates on a loan. Some say that it permits cosigning for relatives but not others, and there are all kinds of interpretations. Some even believe that this first verse means that one cannot biblically take out a loan of any kind. Most commentators disagree. The consensus seems to be that signing a note demanding high interest rates is not wise. The Bible says to get out of it as soon as you can: Do this now, my son, and deliver thyself, when thou art come into the hand of thy friend; go, humble thyself, and make sure thy friend. Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids. Deliver thyself as a roe from the hand of the hunter, and as a bird from the hand of the fowler (verses 3-5). For us, it probably would apply to credit card debt and taking on other kinds of foolish debts where the interest could ruin us financially. The Bible is so practical!

Verses 6-11 express a powerful teaching against laziness. Part of this section goes like this: How long wilt thou sleep, O sluggard? when wilt thou arise out of thy sleep? Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth, and thy want as an armed man (9-11). In the New Testament the Apostle Paul instructs, For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread (2 Thessalonians 3:10, 12). This isn’t about someone who cannot work for some reason; it’s about people who choose not to work out of laziness. In the Thessalonians passage, it goes on to say that those with too much time on their hands stuck their noses into other people’s business and made trouble in the churches. It also admonished against working too hard. I love how the Bible urges balance in every part of our lives. Basically this Proverb along with 2 Thessalonians 3 teach not to be lazy, but also not a workaholic.

Verses 12-15 describe a wicked person. He has a perverse mouth (verse 12). Isn’t it interesting that the first thing we learn about this person is the way he speaks? Jesus said, O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh (Matthew 12:34). As Christian women, our speech should be like the Virtuous Woman, who openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness (Proverbs 31:26).

The wicked person winks with his eyes, speaks with his feet, and teaches with his fingers. I read two commentaries that said that these actions of body language might be signals to his evil cohorts. I’m not sure. My experience is that wicked people seem to be friendly on the outside. They might wink and do the right things outwardly, yet they are rotten inside, because of a wicked heart. Whether signals or false appearances, Frowardness (Perversity) is in his heart, he deviseth mischief continually; he soweth discord. His reward isn’t pretty: Therefore shall his calamity come suddenly; suddenly shall he be broken without remedy (Proverbs 6:14-15). Do you know anyone like this? It’s sad, indeed. This is someone who doesn’t respect others. He’s all about his own agenda—which is to disturb and sow discord, maybe even commit crimes. When a woman is wicked, she may have some of the characteristics of the next section.

We could call verses 16-19 “The Abomination List.” These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:

  1. a proud look
  2. a lying tongue
  3. hands that shed innocent blood,
  4. an heart that deviseth wicked imaginations
  5. feet that be swift in running to mischief
  6. a false witness that speaketh lies
  7. he that soweth discord among brethren

In the Bible, God calls other things abominations, as well, but this list is the longest and contains the majority of them.

Which one is mentioned twice? Lying. Isn’t that food for thought?

This Proverb is long, and I’m going to divide it into two posts for its two parts.

I am always in awe of the practicality of the Bible. In this section, it has taught us about loans, laziness, and the characteristics of a wicked person. We also have a list of abominations, which includes: pride, lying (twice!), murder, scheming, willingness to commit crimes, and sowing discord among believers. I’m afraid I’ve been guilty of two of them. How about you?

I think this list helps us with God’s perspective. Can we gloss over sins? I don’t think so—especially when the Lord puts them in the category of abominations. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all (James 2:10).

Since we’re all guilty, we can be so very thankful for God’s provision of salvation through Christ: But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

Have you asked Jesus to save you? For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13).

Fiction review: Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass

Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass, by Heather Day Gilbert captivated me first because I have read this author’s books before, and second because of its brilliant, whimsical cover. I couldn’t resist; I had to read it.

The opening scene has Belinda Blake, a cute little blond, meeting gorgeous Stone Carrington the 5th, her landlord’s son. She has a ball python wrapped around her neck, taking the snake for a walk, as its doting owner requested.

Exotic pet sitter, Belinda, is soon into mystery and intrigue after she finds a dead woman wearing Louboutin stilletos in her flowerbed.

Add to the dead woman a shedding python and the aqua-eyed, tennis playing rich boy next door, and you have all the ingredients for a great read.

Believe me, it doesn’t disappoint. More mysteries, possible culprits—Mrs. Gilbert had me suspecting almost everyone—and it’s a fun book for rainy afternoons.

The content is clean with nothing besides innocent friendship kisses. Some of the characters drink to excess (not viewed in a favorable light).

I enjoyed it and can hardly wait to read the sequel, which might be even better.

Stay tuned.