December 26, 2021-January 2, 2022
Sunday, December 26, 2021
Read: Luke 2:25-40
As we begin this week of special prayer, think upon what you are expecting to come of it. Prayer must have an expectation and hope if glorious fruit is to come from it.
Consider Simeon and Ana in the Christmas story:
These two God-centered souls hoped and prayed that God would break into history. Simeon hoped for consolation as described in Isaiah 40:1-2. Isaiah prophesied what Simeon prayed an answer for: God’s pardon for a sin-sick people. Beaten and afflicted through wars they couldn’t win; their souls were hammered. Their punishment is completed, God speaks consolation which means comfort. Christ brings pardon and a welcome refreshing.
Anna, on the other hand, worships the Lord for redemption as described in Isaiah 52: “He has redeemed Israel.” Not only Israel but all who believe upon Him (John 1:2). These two lived lives of hope and prayer, and hope did not disappoint (Romans 5:5). Hope and prayer go together well.
Imagine waiting your whole life for a prayer to be answered. Simeon did. Waiting is a common theme throughout scripture.
Abraham waited sixteen years for Isaac. Joseph waited fourteen years from his dream: first in a pit, then a purchased as a slave, and finally to prison until he was promoted to a position to do something. The Israelites waited 420 years for Moses. How long were the Jews in exile under Babylon? Seventy years. You get the idea. The last word on Messiah is the last book of the Old Testament: Malachi: “The Sun of Righteousness shall rise with healing in His wings.” After that, there is not one single word heard from a prophet for four hundred years. The Holy Spirit had revealed to this waiting man that he would see the answer to his prayer by seeing Messiah with his own eyes. He would be one of the prophetic voices that would break the four-hundred-year prophetic silence.
People who wait in prayer, as Simeon and Ana, are the first ones to see the pleasing fruit of it. We love what the Puritan Thomas Watson said about the grace of preparing to pray:
“As in the case of prayer, when God prepares the heart to pray, He prepares His ear to hear (Psalm 10:17). So in the case of spiritual hunger, when God prepares the heart to hunger, He will prepare His hand to fill." ~Thomas Watson
You have no card in your envelope for Waiting Prayer, but it is foundational in preparing for your week of special prayer. Let the Lord know what you are waiting for.
Tuesday, December 27
Read Luke 17:11-17
These lepers had lived on “the other side” of society for years. Clinical experts tell us that leprosy wrecks the bodies of its victims. Symptoms include: loss of appetite, nausea and vomiting. They were missing what many of us possess but take for granted: digits, appendages and the gainful employment that often comes from full functionality. As far as social joys were concerned, there was one Samaritan in the mix of Jewish lepers. Samaritans and Jews did not associate with one another, but misery loves company and misery was the only company the lepers had. They were all outcasts together.
So, what’s wrong with this picture? All ten prayed to Jesus and all ten were healed; yet only one (the Samaritan) returns with thanksgiving prayer!
We may all point the finger, but we have all acted as the nine neglecting a thousand mercies graciously given to us.
In 2013, Thanksgiving began well, but only twenty-four hours later we were “The House of the Living Dead”. It might have been my favorite cranberry sauce, we’ll never know. Earlier that morning I had read a Puritan Prayer quietly and thoughtfully. It stirred my heart to genuine gratefulness. Three days later it would mean even more to me.
At 1am, the shivering set it in, followed by a breaking sweat and then a bolting sprint to the porcelain. It had been more than thirty years since I screamed at a toilet with such enthusiasm (back then I deserved it). The rest of the night was a tag team event of one husband, one wife and a son vying for the last musical chair. Only my second born daughter was spared the angel of death.
Remember that Puritan Prayer I mentioned? Here is part of it:
I bless thee for the soul thou hast created, for adorning it, sanctifying it, Though it is fixed in barren soil;For the body thou hast given me, for preserving its strength and vigor,
For providing senses to enjoy delights, for the ease and freedom of my limbs, For hands, eyes, ears that do thy bidding;
For thy royal bounty providing my daily support,
For a full table and overflowing cup, for appetite, taste, sweetness, For social joys of relatives and friends, for ability to serve others...
(The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers)
In one moment all of these mercies were swept away from me. Three days later, all of these graces were returned to me. But now I had an experience where I had been to “the other side.” This deepened and heightened my gratitude. But I must confess, as the years have gone by, I still may be found to act like the nine; presumptuous for answered prayers and neglectful of mercies granted daily. How about you?
Take your THANKSGIVING CARD, consider one thing you are supremely thankful for. If you like, consider three more things that you regularly take for granted. Honor Him by thanking Him for these. There may be a new experience of salvation ahead for you.
“He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and prepares the way that I may show him the salvation of God.” Psalm 50:23
Tuesday, December 28
Read: Luke 7:36-50
There is thanksgiving and there is praise. One is thanking him for what he has done. The other is worshipping God for Who He is.
Consider this shamed woman’s estimation of the Lord. She considered him faithful to forgive, merciful to cleanse and powerful to start her life anew.
Praise is deeply connected to adoration and the recognition of God's myriad attributes.
“If this man were a prophet…” criticized the Pharisee. Though Israel’s teacher, he didn’t understand what redemption looked like and the adoration that attends true worship. The scene playing before him was strange and foreign to him.
Of all her possessions, of which there were few, she brought a single alabaster jar of perfume. Its marble-like streaks resembled the tear-stained scene. Nimbly, she opened it above his feet washed with her tears. Now she had poured the essence upon his feet as an offering. The fragrance of worship filled the room. And like true worship, there were touching and tender movements that were not understood by non-worshippers. Offended and embarrassed, the host inwardly called into question the guest of honor’s credentials.
Jesus rebuked him with a parable. “Who loves more: the one forgiven little or the one forgiven much?” the guest queried. “I suppose the one with the bigger debt.” Simon the Pharisee replied nervously.
The outcast had out hosted him. She gave what he wouldn’t give to his honored guest: water, a kiss and precious oil. She gave what he didn’t have—a heart of worship. He had what she no longer had—a great debt. He was rebuked and rejected. She was received and saved.
She had no request upon her lips. She brought no lists other than the life-list of sins that were washed away by His tender mercies.
O’ Christian, when is the last time you sat at His feet and worshipped with no agenda other than to praise Him? Let your prayer be void of righteous duty to fulfill. Let it be without hurry to do your “daily devotion” before running out of the door.
When is the last time you had nothing to do but contemplate your debt and His grace?
As you reflect on your sin and his forgiveness, praise will pour from your heart. You will touch him. He will receive your offering. Worship will fill the room. He will silence your accusers and demonic detractors. He will send you away whole, yet once again. Peace will attend your way.
“O come let us adore Him.”
Take time to think upon the Lord, even in the course of your day: What of God and His character is to be declared?
Use the other side of your Praise and Thanksgiving card to declare a scripture or statement of your praise.
Wednesday, December 29
Confession isn’t limited to the worst of these, it is for all of us. Its opportunities are wide and deep because sin is so plenty. Confession isn’t a one-time experience for the sinner coming to grace. It is a regular need for every soul in sanctification. It is as necessary as our body’s need for daily bread.
“Give us day by day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation but deliver us from the evil one.”” (Luke 11:3–4, NKJV)
The leper in our story was a diseased man with a social stigma attached to him. He was bound by law, to declare in a loud voice, “Unclean!”, when others were nearby. His infection was visible on the outside. Our infection is on the inside and easily hidden, especially to ourselves.
“The proof of a sinner is that he doesn’t know his own sin.” St. Augustine
We remember that it was a blessing for King David to finally see his sin. Sight of sin is necessary for repentance. When David saw he was unclean, he begged the Lord, as the leper did, for cleansing. And he received forgiveness because the Lord is good.
One sin had turned to many sins until he was covered with disease. In the aftermath,
He would learn a vital life lesson.
“Keep your sin accounts small.”
David learned to pray, as we all should:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Psalm 139:23–24, NKJV)
Sight of sin is crucial to making us feel shame for sin, shame teaches us to sorrow our sin, which in turn leads us to hate our sin. Ultimately, the confessing sinner finds help from above to forsake sin. These are the ingredients of true repentance. If you have any of them missing, repentance loses its virtue.
The leper knew his infection. He knew shame because was socially stigmatized. He sorrowed that he had it. He hated its consequence. He confessed his disease out loud to the Lord with humility, but he wasn’t sure of a good outcome.
He prayed hesitantly, “Lord, if you are willing, You can make me clean.” After all, who would engage with a contagious man? Jesus said, “I am willing, be cleansed.”
That Jesus would love dirty people like us, is deeply humbling and very prayer affirming for anyone who will confess his sin.
God is good and He delivered the man from his curse. Only God can deliver us from evil.
Psalm 34 reminds us that God is good.
A. W. Tozer wrote: “God’s goodness is different from his holiness. His goodness disposes Him to be: kind, favorable, friendly and sympathetic to those He has created. By His nature He will bestow blessedness. He takes pleasure in the happiness of His people.”
God is merciful to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. As Christians, we have the imputed righteousness of Christ. His goodness is what makes us good. Here is something to think about: God is good because He felt good in His heart when He created us. He redeemed us for the same reason because He is good.
When you confess your sins, know He is good. Expect a positive outcome.
Let the Holy Spirit search your heart:
Is there discord in your home? Is it always “the other” person? Does always having the right answer and the right opinion make you bullet-proof from ever being wrong? Pride is the chief of of all sins and the Pharisee’s blinders. Self-righteousness is always revealed in a person who is critical of others. Self-righteousness is the reason for Jesus’ harshest indignation (Matthew 23).
Sins of the flesh are plenty: sexual lust, greed, discontent, pleasure and party at the expense of godliness. “Allowable things” can easily become idols. It is a grace for the Lord to take them away.
Indifference is the sin of a prayer-less Christian. Compromise the sin of a Word-less Christian and deadness is he sin of a salt-less Christian. Only a miracle can reverse the trend. We thank God the confession is where miracles begin.
Write upon your "Confession" card your sin whether it is from the pride, the flesh or the devil's temptations. Let sorrow drive you to God's goodness for healing.
Thursday, December 30
Read Luke 18:1-8
“There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, ‘Get justice for me from my adversary.’” (Luke 18:2–3, NKJV)
This is the picture of petition in prayer.
We shouldn’t be confused that Jesus is comparing God to a wicked judge. He isn’t demonstrating God’s character—God does have regard for men.
Jesus is demonstrating that if persistence in petition works with the ungodly who don’t care—how much more will persistence be rewarded by God who cares deeply about us!
The widow illustrates the resource of having God and God alone. This was a blessing in disguise. She didn’t have a husband. She didn’t have children to help her apparently. We don’t know the nature of what her adversary was doing against her. The widow had been wronged. The widow is alone, teaching us that we must depend on God alone.
When we pray, we must realize that we have no other recourse, no other resource—no one, but God!
We may have many good Christian friends, perhaps a godly spouse, but there is no one who can do what God can do.
“Whom have I in heaven but You? And there is none upon earth that I desire besides You. My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:25–26, NKJV)
“Do not put your trust in princes, Nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help.” (Psalm 146:3, NKJV)
Our prayer is aided in great strength when we reckon in our minds that God, and God only—is the one who can help us!
The adversary teaches us who resists us in prayer. We know who our enemy is. He is the devil.
“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:8, NKJV)
Martin Luther wrote of him:
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe;
His craft and power are great, and, armed with cruel hate,
On earth is not his equal.
Life, under God's hand, will bring us into conflict with our adversary to teach us to pray and to petition.
The wicked judge doesn't act immediately because he is self-centered and doesn't care. God, however, has higher purposes. God's delays are not necessarily refusals; often they intended to test our faith and dedication.
Persistent prayer deepens us and glorifies God when He answers.
“For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ ” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”” (Luke 18:4–8, ESV)
Write your petition need upon your card. It may be a petition you have just begun to pray. Or it may be something you have been praying for years. Know that a blessing is coming. An answer is coming. Wait for it and keep praying.
“For since the beginning of the world Men have not heard nor perceived by the ear, Nor has the eye seen any God besides You, Who acts for the one who waits for Him.” (Isaiah 64:4, NKJV)
December 31, Friday
Read: Luke 4:1-13
“May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands.” Psalm 149:6
When Jesus was fasting forty days in the wilderness before he came into public ministry, the devil came to tempt him. It has been said that after forty days of not eating, the body can begin to seriously break down. When Jesus was at his weakest, physically, the devil came to him with bargains.
In each case, the Lord answered with the Word of God— “IT IS WRITTEN...”
This is a lesson to us. A believer, at his weakest state, can be strengthened for victory with the Word of God.
A teenage boy was virtually abandoned by both of his parents during an ugly breakup. Though young, he read scripture at night in his small bedroom.
“Though my father and mother forsake me, Lord, I know you will receive me.” Teach me your way O Lord; lead me in a straight path.” Psalm 27:10
It seemed as though the Psalm writer had written every word right from to this young man’s heart. The vocabulary was a little out of his generation, but it seemed to say what he felt. The words were so perfect to his situation that the boy knew that God knew him and where he was.
Though at one of his weakest moments in life, he found strength for victory in the Word—praying his heart and God’s heart together.
That Scripture enabled that youth to find the traction that he needed in slippery places.
Praying Scripture is powerful, not only in warfare, but in laying hold of God's promises.
Consider this when you pray Scripture:
- You know you are praying His will. (Romans 12:1-2)
- It helps you to resist the devil and put him to flight. (Luke 4:1-13, James 4:6-7)
- It builds your faith. "Faith comes by hearing the Word..." Romans 10:17
When the first church experienced resistance and persecution from the local authorities, they prayed Scripture. They used Nehemiah 9:6 in their petition:
“You alone are the Lord; You have made heaven, The heaven of heavens, with all their host, The earth and everything on it, The seas and all that is in them, And You preserve them all. The host of heaven worships You.” (Nehemiah 9:6, NKJV)
They referred to Psalm 2:1-2 in their situation:
“Why do the nations rage, And the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,” (Psalm 2:1–2, NKJV)
Acts 4:24-31 tells us more of their petition. They went to the Word to pray and the place where they prayed was shaken. They became bold Christians!
"Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.” (Acts 4:24–31, NKJV)
On your prayer card, write a Scripture that has been meaningful to you. Writing Scripture is powerful because it gets down in your soul. It slows you down so you can think. It helps you focus on every Word in the Scripture. It is a great way to begin to memorize a verse.
You may be someone who writes in a journal or in the wide margins of your Bible. Scripture and prayer notes are excellent tools for getting the Word down deep into your soul.
Not only that, good notes and prayers written can be referenced later. You may be surprised in the future to look at your prayer notes and find that God answered your prayer in a wonderful way. I know he answered my prayer from that small bedroom so many years ago.
January 1, Saturday
Read Luke 5:17-26
This is what intercession is: acting on behalf of another to bring them benefit.
These men loved their friend and did what he couldn’t do for himself to help him. It was an act of great mercy for these faithful friends to help the faith of the paralyzed man. Great good came from it. Not only helping him to walk again but seeing him through to be born-again.
“When He saw their faith, He said to him, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.”” (Luke 5:20)
Indeed, intercessory prayer heals the whole man. Let us pray for those, who like this man, want to be helped. But let us also pray for those who will not be helped. The Bible is full of intercessory prayer for those who are not cooperating and who are themselves careless. Abraham prayed for Sodom. Samuel prayed for fallen Saul. Jesus prayer fully interceded for his enemies.
Speaking of Christ’s intercession, Moses pleaded for Israel when they sinned with the golden calf (Exodus 32). They had crossed the line. But Moses’ intercession is Christ-like in self-sacrifice:
“Then Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.”” (Exodus 32:31–32, NKJV)
Friends, Christ interceded for us when we were underserving. After we were saved, he keeps us saved through intercession: “Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25, NKJV)
No prayer speaks to the redemption of Christ more than intercessory prayer.
When you consider someone to intercede for, it may be joining with their faith to see them through to some good end. Or, you may be praying for someone who is in the category of “Least likely to be saved.”
Either way, write their name upon the intercession prayer card.
Be strengthened in faith as you engage in intercessory prayer. YOU were saved by the intercession of Christ and you, too, were past the point of no return.
“Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots.” (Luke 23:34, NKJV)