Shallowford Free Will Baptist
Friday, January 19, 2018
For the Glory of Christ Alone
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                                                                                                                                                                                     January 16, 2018

 

Pray without ceasing…

~ 1 Thessalonians 5:17

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                This week’s entry will continue the discussion begun last week on the topic of unceasing prayer. If you remember our discussion last week, you’ll remember that prayer is not an end unto itself. Instead, prayer is an avenue of communication with the God of all creation. The CONTEXT for that prayer ought to be based on two aspects of His divine nature: His sovereignty and His goodness. He is sovereign and therefore we can pray to Him expecting that He alone can bring certain actions to pass. But that sovereignty is also the determination of the outcome of our prayers. We most certainly can express our desires and opinions about what we expect to take place, but it is God’s will that must and will be done if He is to remain sovereign. But sovereignty is only part of the equation, for God must also be willing to help us. In that, we see His goodness manifested. He cares about the details of our lives and therefore works to bring about a good end for His people. That is the context of our desire to pray without ceasing. This week, I’d like to talk about the CONTENT of our prayers. Next week we will conclude in discussing a renewed COMMITMENT to prayer. I pray that these are instructive and beneficial to you.

                Let me begin this conversation on the CONTENT of our prayers by saying that there is absolutely nothing that we are unable to pray about. Our successes and failures are always appropriate topics of prayer. Whatever struggles or shortcomings or victories or needs we might have…we can pray about them all. I believe that part of the realization of the richness of the content of our prayers depends on our ability to truly grasp that anything and everything in life can be prayed over. And even if you don’t think there is anything in your life that needs praying about (and you’d be most decisively wrong…), there are plenty of things going on in the lives of others that ought to concern you. Ought we not to pray for their needs as well? So, yes, we are privileged to be able to take our every need to the Lord in prayer.

                Yet so often I find myself being reluctant to pray about something that I deem to be insignificant or meaningless. That is a tremendous flaw that I have identified in my own life. I think I believe that God is somehow burdened unnecessarily when I call out to Him about minor things that I ought to be able to handle on my own. But as we’re reminded again about God’s sovereignty, there is nothing too small that it escapes His sovereign knowledge. If that’s true then all of our lives, every single second, is part of the tapestry of God’s ultimate authority over us. It is therefore worthy of our prayers. But not only for that reason. We must also remove this idea that things are too small to pray about because small things have an uncanny ability to cause big issues later. Let me give you an example by way of analogy. One of the biggest disagreements that my grandfather and grandmother had in their 65 years of marriage was over my dad. My dad started smoking around the age of 15. At that time it was allowable at the school so long as there was a written note from the parents of the child granting permission. So my dad started his journey with smoking nearly 45 years ago! The likelihood of him passing away from some breathing related ailment is extremely high, especially considering that he has Gulf War Syndrome from his service in Desert Storm. If that happens, and I pray that it doesn’t, it will not be one cigarette that caused it. An argument can be made that an individual can smoke a few cigarettes without the damaging long-term effects. It is fair to say that it was not that first cigarette that contributed to his health. But it is equally fair to say that if it were not for that one, the second cigarette would have never been an issue. It was one and then it was two, then ten, then 100, then 1000. His condition is a culmination of ALL of those cigarettes, not just the first. And likewise many of our problems that we deal with right now are problems that might never have existed had we stopped to pray for the “small things” along the way. We ought to be willing to pray to the Lord about everything in our lives, for all of our lives are acts of worship towards Him. The general content of our prayer is EVERYTHING!

                But the specific content of our prayer is equally important too. And I think it can divide itself neatly into two areas: prayers we pray for ourselves and prayers we pray for others. First, we must learn to pray for the things we need or seek in our own life. I think it is absolutely appropriate that we pray for the Lord to reveal the wickedness of our lives. David prays, “See if there is any wicked way in me” (Ps. 139:24a). To call God’s sovereign gaze upon your life is the hardest thing that we may ever do, but it is also the most necessary. The truth is that we have normalized sin to the point that our consciences will not even recognize it as being sinful anymore. We need His Spirit to illumine the dark recesses of our hearts that we might begin to see the things that are really there. But be warned – it’s not comfortable. To expose these shortcomings is not pleasant, but we’re working towards a good and peaceable end. The Lord knows your constitution, and yet He loves you nonetheless. When He exposes our sinful actions and motivations He does so with the intent of bringing about true spiritual transformation. Our confession of those sins is the recognition of His sovereignty in determining that those things are right and wrong. You and I will never be able to pray adequately for anything else if we aren’t able to look at our lives with the perfect insight of God.

                But we can also pray for a myriad of other things for ourselves. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it at least begins the discussion. We can pray that the Lord would deliver us from temptations (Mt. 26:41; Mk. 14:38; Lk. 22:40); we must also call out for strength should God choose to allow us to go through some trial or tribulation (Mk. 13:33; James 5:13). We can call out asking the Lord for mercy (Luke 18:13), for forgiveness (Acts 8:22), for righteousness (2 Cor. 13:7), and love (Php. 1:9). Each of us ought to call out to the Lord to reveal to us the true condition of our souls (2 Cor. 13:5). I believe it is even appropriate for us to pray for health and security (3 John 2) so long as we balance that with a sincere admission that God’s will must be done (Mt. 26:39; Lk. 22:42). The guiding principle for our prayers ought to be recognition that our lives are His and ought to reflect His values in what we say and do. There is certainly more that we can pray for regarding our personal lives, but these are a good foundation from the Scriptures to encourage us to pray for ourselves.

                I have a confession. I have included my name on my Tuesday prayer list. That might seem like it is something strange to do, but I’ve done it intentionally. First, if I ever share this list with anyone else, I’d want them to pray for me. But more importantly, I understand how easy it is to get caught up in praying for others that you forget to pray for yourself. Jesus tells us that we cannot remove the speck from our brother’s eye if we have a plank sticking out of your own (Mt. 7:3-5). I know the primary application of that passage pertains to sin, but I also know that you and I will at times try to “serve away” our issues by devoting our time to others when we ought to be paying attention to ourselves. You and I will never be any good to any others if we don’t try to strengthen our own spiritual building with the bindings of prayer.

                But you also ought to pray for others. Pray that there would come more laborers into the work of the Lord (Mt. 9:38; Lk. 10:2) – just don’t regret it should He call your children or grandchildren to the mission field. Pray for the safety and wellbeing of your brothers in Christ (John 17:15; 1 Thess. 5:25). Pray that your brothers and sisters will fulfill the calling of God upon their lives (2 Thess. 1:11). We ought to pray for those of the body of Christ who are faltering in sin (James 5:16; 1 John 5:16). As ministers ourselves, we most certainly ought to pray for the advancement of others in the ministry and work of the Lord (2 Thess. 3:1). And as hard as it is, we also ought to pray for those who would rather be our enemies (Lk. 6:28). In the faith or out, we have an awesome responsibility and privilege to approach the throne of God’s grace on behalf of another. Perhaps we need a renewed passion towards praying for those around us.

                And lest I should be remiss, one of the most important prayers you can ever offer is a prayer of thanksgiving. Paul writes, “In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5:18). A life of ingratitude is a life that does not understand the good things that God has done for us. We can think God for so many things: for salvation, for our blessings, for our spiritual family, for a new purpose, for a new life, for His provision, for the victory in Christ, for the indescribable gift of God, for eternal life, for one another, for our government…for EVERYTHING! There is nothing that we possess that God’s sovereignty and goodness have not provided (James 1:17). And we ought to be thankful. The truth is, even if we’re having a really bad day, we’ve got still more reasons to be thankful than ever before. I have struggled with clamoring for and lamenting over the things that I don’t have when all of these countless blessings are staring me right in the face. Perhaps the greatest content of our prayers ought to be just a simple phrase – “Thank you, Lord, for _______.” You fill in the blank. What are you thankful for? Many, O LORD my God, are Your wonderful works Which You have done; And Your thoughts toward us Cannot be recounted to You in order; If I would declare and speak of them, They are more than can be numbered” (Ps. 40:5). Do you believe that enough to pray about it?

                The point of this long entry is to remind us that the content of our prayers is never exhausted. Were we to bow knee and begin to pray about the things we truly ought to be praying about, we’d never have really even started when the Lord called us home. That is how great our need is as expressed in prayer. That is how great our gratitude is in thanksgiving. Ceaseless prayer is possible just by virtue of the content of our prayers alone. The only question we have to wrestle with is, “Am I going to do my part in prayer?” That calls for a renewed commitment to prayer…but that’s a topic for next week. For now, consider the multitude of opportunities you have to pray. And be reminded that God can and cares. He will do something in His timing in answer to all of your prayers, and when He answers I assure you it will be for the greatest good imaginable.

                Have a blessed week! Stay warm!

   

~Bro. Benjamin

 

SCRIPTURE CHALLENGE
Who prays for us when we do not know what we ought to pray?

 

 

Previous Postings                                                                           This Week's Sermons
January 16
January 9
December 19                                                                              January 14 (AM)
December 12                                                                "Let's Make 2018 All About Him"
December 5                                                                                 Proverbs 3:5-6
November 28                                                                                                
November 14                                                                              January 14 (PM)
November 7                                                                     "What Paul Prays For, Part 2"
October 31                                                                                Ephesians 1:15-21
October 24
                                                                                              
October 10                                                                               January 10 (WED)
October 3                                                                                      Acts 6:8-7:5
                                                                                            
                                                                                                                                                  
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If you need a copy of any sermon from the past, email Bro. Benjamin with the date and title of the message listed below.
We will be happy to send you a CD of the sermon. Additionally sermons are available through the "Multimedia" Page


January 14 (AM) "Let's Make 2018 All About Him"--Proverbs 3:5-6
January 14 (PM) "What Paul Prays For, Part 2"--Ephesians 1:15-21
January 7 (AM) "Time to Start Over"--2 Corinthians 5:14-21
January 7 (PM) "What Paul Prays For"--Ephesians 1:15-21
 
Click here for a list of available sermons from 2017!
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here for a list of available sermons from 2016!
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here for a list of available sermons from 2015!
Click here for a list of available sermons from 2014!

Click here for a list of available sermons from 2013!
Click
here for a list of available sermons from 2012!
Click
here for a list of available sermons from 2011! 

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About Our Pastor
 
 
Bro. Benjamin Miller began his ministry at Shallowford Free Will Baptist Church in August, 2011. Prior to pastoring our church, Bro. Benjamin pastored at New Home FWB in Colquitt, GA. He received his B.A. in History from Welch College (formerly Free Will Baptist Bible College) in Nashville, TN. He then received his M.A. in Biblical Studies from Lipscomb University, a Church of Christ graduate school in Nashville. Bro. Benjamin enjoys spending time with his family, reading, and fellowshipping with the people of the church. He is a HUGE Braves fan! Our pastor has dedicated himself to becoming a student of the Word and to preaching the Word with passion, integrity, and real-life applications.
 
Bro. Benjamin married Jara in June 2002. She is a special educator at Mount Bethel Elementary School here in Marietta. She is a tremendous part of his life and quite active in our church. 
 
They had their first son, Thomas, in June 2008. Thomas was born prematurely, and is a testimony to God's amazing grace and provision. He is now a 3rd grader, and does well in school. His greatest ability is to reach out to those in his class in concern and in love.
 
Bro. Benjamin and Sis. Jara welcomed Nathanael in March, 2014. His name means "given by God" and he is absolute reminder of God's ability to bless individuals beyond measure.
 
We hope you'll take the opportunity to get to know our pastoral family!