How to pray

 

Jason Upton – Teach me how to pray

 

It is a subject matter that was brought up by a disciple rather than a subject in Jesus’ repertoire of disciple-making moments. Obviously Jesus knew that prayer was vital, He practiced it personally. I can only imagine the patience Jesus exercised in waiting for them to ask. He waited for them to be eager, to be motivated.

Jesus was an amazement to His disciples – life was one unending experience that they could never quite explain. They saw the power of darkness fall – sickness, death and despair. There were so many demonstrations of power. They saw the eyes, smiles and grateful expressions in the faces of those who were healed – the blind, sick, dumb, deaf – healed and set free able to go back to their families totally changed. Like me, they must have marvelled at His wisdom, especially when confronted. I think that when Jesus was eating, sleeping, teaching, traveling – and they were always watching – He was praying. Somehow there must have been a connection made that Jesus power had something to do with prayer.

How easy is it to ask one who has demonstrated their expertise to share it with others?

More so when you think that some of the disciples were already men of prayer. Some of them were disciples of John, and he taught them how to pray. However in watching Jesus they knew He had something they did not have. He made them aware how little they really knew about prayer.

I have been visiting churches, pastors and individuals lately who are being called to be disciple-makers and people of prayer. They cry out, “Lord, teach us to pray.” The brutal fact is that we do not know how to pray. If we are to pray and not to faint, there is more fainting going on then praying. So it is either life through the ministry of prayer or we drift off into discouragement and frustration of a feeble, powerless, useless and fruitless life marked by anxiety, fear, guilt and despair.

Now Jesus[a] was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” – Luke 11:1  ESV

 

 

 

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How to grow

 

I look at Jacob as an example of how to grow as a disciple. God gives me what I need, when I need it. He watches over me. He has patience with me. He prunes and trains me to grow in the right direction. He waters and fertilizes me at the right times and in the proper amounts.

In other words, God disciples the lives of those separated from Him and He reaches them through His grace. Jacob wanting the blessings of God is not enough. He still did not walk with God and he definitely did not follow God. His story is one of how God brings us into alignment with Him.

Jacob’s encounter with angels is quite dramatic. It would seem that wherever there is a work to be done between us and God, there is a ladder, and the angels of God are ascending and descending. Jacob went on his way and the angels of God met him.

I look at prayer as another aspect of growing as a disciple.

And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. – Luke 10:2

Prayer is hard work. It looks like I might not be focused on the right kind of praying. While I am sure it is okay to pray for my family and friends to come and know Christ, Jesus here is really focused on what my prayer should be. He asks me to pray for additional disciples who will accept the call of evangelism. I believe that such an earnest prayer warrior is probably already a disciple and involved in the work of evangelism. They see the harvest is ripe and they know that many will not hear the Gospel because of the shortage of workers.

Picture a farmer with a 1950’s model tractor who is about to plow a 5,000-acre farm.  He gets up in the morning and starts the old tractor and begins plowing.  He labors till dark and realizes he’s only scratched the surface.  It’s only that farmer who truly understands the great need for more help.  His discouragement points to the fact more help is needed.  His aching muscles and back point to the fact that more help is needed.  His tractor that is overheated points there.  The guy sitting at home in front of the TV has no real knowledge of the help that’s needed.  Only those who are labourers in God’s field can really understand the great need of the disciple.

I think Jesus’ themes in His instructions to the seventy-two that were sent out also encourage a growth in my walk. Jesus urged them to find their joy in their salvation, not in their authority over the demons. Jesus expressed His own deep joy in God’s part in bringing us to Him and His part in the entire plan of salvation. Jesus reminded them that they were experiencing what the people in the Old Testament yearned to see.

I am also challenged to love. In fact, without love, I cannot be a disciple of Jesus.

Luke chapter ten is quite a fascinating job description. If I follow it, I am sure to grow:

  • Go to places where He wants me to go. Be the spokesperson for Him. Remember I do not own the Good News. Go together with someone else because the mission is not individual, but rather one of community.
  • I partner with God. Pray for others to come and join me. The mission is dangerous and difficult because my life is contrary to the communities I am visiting.
  • I have to trust in the hospitality of people and the only gift I have that I can give is peace. It means I have to trust people to welcome me and that those who give to me will feel respected. I also need to stay focused and my time cannot be lost with things that do not belong to the mission.
  •  Live a life that participates in sharing and not in accumulating.
  • Be in communion with everyone around the dining room table. Do not judge anything put in front of me. What I eat or drink does not bring me into the presence of God – my goal is intimacy with God.
  • I need to take care of those excluded from community and that would include the refugees, immigrants, and marginalized.
  • I am to proclaim the Kingdom of God

When I grow as a disciple, I will know that I have matured when in fact I take on the responsibility of being a disciple-maker. That introduces the theme in Luke chapter ten of Persons of Peace.

I almost can say that a disciple-maker has one job – find the Person of Peace.  This person may be from any walk of life, but they will welcome us, listen to our message, help us with our livelihood, and allow us to stay in their home and influence their family and the community for the sake of the Gospel.

As a disciple-maker I do not preach or teach, do not hand out tracts or sell books or give away Bibles. I do not set up mass rallies or healing services. Instead, I find the person in the place where Christ is about to visit. If there is no such person, I move on to another place. How do I find such a person? By praying and through service. Service and if that involves the miraculous, that would be very much in keeping with the Book of Acts. However, it could be as simple as feeding the hungry or helping someone fix a flat tire. Either way, it is freely giving of ourselves. I believe this Person of Peace could be one of the harvesters we are praying for. It would be my job to equip this person to be the disciple-maker in their community. I am to ensure that I am not a financial burden and that I am working and seen to be working by the rest of the community. By working in the community I get the chance to meet people and have a reason to be there with them.

I think Jesus showed us that all the ministries He was involved in met the needs – the real and felt needs of the community.   As we do this we are building relationships that allow us to talk about the Kingdom of God/heaven. The person who is responsive to this message becomes the focus of our attention. This focus is on the household, and we do not move around once the Person of Peace is found. We then make disciples of this family, who then take on the responsibility of reaching their community for Christ.

The disciple-maker starts a Discovery Group to help the family discover on their own who God is and how they must relate to Him. The disciple-maker teaches them how to study the Word of God, but does not lead the Bible studies or do any of the preaching and teaching. The focus is on the family learning directly from God through His Word. The disciple-maker guides the direction of the study, but does not conduct the study, except to model the process a few times in the beginning.

Disciples make more disciples. Leaders equip more leaders. Groups establish more groups. Churches plant more churches.

How do I get there – how to I grow to be not only a disciple, but a disciple-maker?

The highest priority in our lives needs to be choosing the good part, as Mary did: to learn of Jesus so that we can become like Him. It’s a love and devotion to Him that makes everything else of secondary importance. It is to seek the riches of wisdom and understanding that are in Him. If we don’t do this, how can we follow Him, how can we be His disciples?

Mary found a way to be a Jesus’ feet when He was teaching. A place of submission, seeking knowledge, worshipping.

Discipleship is about loving God …. It is more than an acknowledgement of God’s existence or a statement of belief regarding God. It is total devotion, head-over-heels-in-love-with adoration. It is the deep desire to know God, to be one with God, and to worship God.

 

 

 

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Truth

Jesus had been run out of His hometown Nazareth and He was moving on to Capernaum and the smaller cities like Chorazin and Bethsaida. He was rejected even though He had done some miraculous things. He was rejected because of the prevailing view of religion and God in their society.

Jesus was actually talking to people who were carrying a terrible religious burden. I think that is what religion does to you. It wears us out. What we need to learn is how to lay down the burdens of religion in a loving and intelligent way.

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children – Matthew 11:25  ESV

It would seem that the “wise and understanding” were the Pharisees and the “little children” were the disciples. The Pharisees because of their conceit and seeking others praise rather than truth, were shut out from a relationship with God. The disciples received the kingdom of God like children, or child-like, who being earnest and simple-hearted. So much so that new truths were disclosed and old truths were seen with clarity.

Luke 10 shares the same story to Matthew 11.

“Father, I thank thee for hiding these things from some and revealing them to others. This is good and right. And I thank you for the special relationship that we enjoy. Thank you for the authority given to me to reveal you to those whom I have chosen.” – Luke 10:21  ESV

There was a lot of joy in seeing victory over Satan’s demons and miracles that were performed. Jesus did not pay attention to the miracles so much – instead He uttered this prayer just like Matthew had recorded it.

What was important is that those who follow Jesus know the truth. If I ever fail to see it, I know that I need to repent of thinking that I am all that. When I repent and come back to Jesus, just as I am, He reveals Himself to me in special ways and I walk once again in truth. Truth of a gentle relationship, where I rest in Him.

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Rethink my thinking

 

Repent, as Jesus commanded.

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” – Matthew 4:17  ESV

Repent means to turn back on how I am thinking about things and to reconsider. Repent, for the kingdom of God is now available to me. If I am to walk in the easy yoke with Jesus and have the light load because of who I am yoked to – I need to understand that I am working with the kingdom of God.

Disciple means I am a follower who has learned to believe in the truth of the doctrine of my teacher. So there should be similarity between me and my teacher.

Interesting to note that while Jesus was not a disciple of John the Baptist, He did let John baptize Him before He entered into ministry. It is also interesting to note that the gospel John the Baptist preached was the exact same as Jesus preached. A disciple is going to follow the preaching and teaching of the one who trained him. We do not come up with new doctrines in order to become effective disciples of Jesus.

As a disciple, I have a heart for those who do not know Jesus and I am open to what God wants me to do. Wherever I am placed by God, I will seek to be used by God, to see others are invited to follow Jesus and make disciples.

I do that because Jesus extended a call to repentance to unlikely and unexpected people. The first disciples did not ignore the call, they abandon their old way of living and accepted Jesus’ invitation to follow Him. As a follower of Christ, I have the privilege of answering God’s call too and extending that same call to those who need to repent and follow.

 

 

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The authority of a disciple

 

ALL HAIL THE POWER OF JESUS’ NAME

 

I love reading Bible stories where individuals are thinking about something they need to do and God comes along and gives His blessing to go and do it. We know that happened to Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father, but I had forgotten it happened to Jacob as well.

Now Jacob heard that the sons of Laban were saying, “Jacob has taken all that was our father’s, and from what was our father’s he has gained all this wealth.” And Jacob saw that Laban did not regard him with favor as before. Then the Lord said to Jacob, “Return to the land of your fathers and to your kindred, and I will be with you.” – Genesis 31:1-3  ESV

There is much more authority in our wings when we are given that authority by God. The same thing happened with the early disciples. In fact, when the twelve were first sent out, Jesus gave them every resource they needed to carry out the task that they had been assigned – both power and authority.

 “Authority is like a traffic cop who, by simply raising his hand, can bring two tons of speeding automobile to a complete halt. Does the officer have the power to stop the car? No! But the authority of the uniform does.” Charles Swindoll   

Following Jesus in this manner does come at a cost. A genuine disciple is more than just being forgiven of our sins, it is more than just denying the manifestation of sin in our life, it is participating in the carrying of our cross every day resulting in us being conformed to the image of Jesus.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. – Luke 9:23  ESV

When Jesus starts talking about His death, He kind of throws a crisis among the disciples following Him. They cannot understand and they are afraid. They start talking about who is the greatest, they want to control who can and cannot use the name of Jesus, and they want to destroy an entire village because they refused to welcome Jesus. Jesus tries to form His disciples into understanding His mission and eventually theirs. Jesus gives these three conditions for following Him:

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”  And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”  To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.”  And Jesus[g] said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”  Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.”  Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” – Luke 9:57-62

While praying for healing is part and parcel of the authority and power we all have as disciples, I think Jesus was trying to get both our feet on the ground by reminding us that a disciple is a servant. They get their hands dirty distributing multiplied food to hungry people. A disciple’s task involves being sent to proclaim the kingdom of God. We have a message to give. We ourselves are disciples because we confessed Jesus as the Christ.

 

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Women disciples

Women Walked with Jesus Too

 

I thought today of how Isaac could have survived the “botched” job of blessing his children.  What if he had called his wife in to have her with him as he blessed them? Funny how us men tend to think not so much relationally but more practically. We would rather go it alone, smell and touch our way through life, and then wonder why we mess up so.  Calling his wife to partner with him in the blessing as much as she was a partner in life definitely could have added value to the final act of discipling his family.

So he went in to his father and said, “My father.” And he said, “Here I am. Who are you, my son?”  Jacob said to his father, “I am Esau your firstborn. I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat of my game, that your soul may bless me.”  But Isaac said to his son, “How is it that you have found it so quickly, my son?” He answered, “Because the Lord your God granted me success.”  Then Isaac said to Jacob, “Please come near, that I may feel you, my son, to know whether you are really my son Esau or not.”  So Jacob went near to Isaac his father, who felt him and said, “The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are the hands of Esau.”  And he did not recognize him, because his hands were hairy like his brother Esau’s hands. So he blessed him.  He said, “Are you really my son Esau?” He answered, “I am.”  Then he said, “Bring it near to me, that I may eat of my son’s game and bless you.” So he brought it near to him, and he ate; and he brought him wine, and he drank. Then his father Isaac said to him, “Come near and kiss me, my son.” So he came near and kissed him. And Isaac smelled the smell of his garments and blessed him – Genesis 27:18-27  ESV

Luke records many women in his narrative of Jesus’ life and ministry. In fact, his gospel devotes substantial content to female characters, giving more names of specific women in Jesus’ life than any other gospel. In particular, Luke stresses the importance of
women as disciples

Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him,  and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,  and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them[a] out of their means. – Luke 8:1-3  ESV

I am so thankful for the women in my life that have come alongside me and have in many ways, discipled me – my mom when I was a teenager, my wife through 34 years of marriage and my daughter who has grown into an amazing disciple of Jesus and has been blessed to disciple many others and continues to do so as she is a light to those who do not know Him.  I am also a  of a guest writer for a blog called 66Books. There Courtney leads a number of us into how to read, study and listen to God as students of the Word. Love being part of her team.

Disciple thought for today: Psalm 4 is a quiet, evening Psalm. It trains me to conclude each day by processing my feelings and experiences with God.

 

 

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I will be like my teacher

 

A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. – Luke 6:40

The first question that comes to my mind is – who is my teacher? I know that I struggle with my walk with Jesus even though I spend a lot of time with Him. I cannot imagine how other followers live who have decided to spend their time doing anything and everything other than spending time with Jesus on Sunday and a possible time or two during the week.

I think it helps me when I look at Jesus and say these words – “You are my Master, I am your disciple.” When I look at my relationship with Jesus in this manner I am fully engaged to learn from Him and to follow Him. Jesus has taught me everything that He has practiced. He does not asked me to do anything that He has not done Himself. My being fully trained lies in coming as near to Jesus as I can so that I can be as much like Him as possible.

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