Purpose

My final quote in this series of Great Quotes is this next one, straight out of the Bible.  How amazing is it to know that, no matter your situation or struggles, talents or insecurities, failures or successes, you don’t have to “measure up” or “finally arrive” at some expected place of “being good enough.”  It’s all about our Savior, not about us.

I do not consider myself to have “arrived,” spiritually, nor to I consider myself already perfect.  But I keep going on, grasping ever more firmly that purpose for which Christ Jesus grasped me.  My brothers, I do concentrate on this:  I leave the past behind and with hands out-stretched to whatever lies ahead I go straight for the goal–my reward he honor of my high calling by God in Christ Jesus.  All of us who are spiritually adult should set ourselves this sort of ambition, and if at present you cannot see this, yet you will find that this is the attitude which God is leading you to adopt.  It is important that we go forward in the light of such truth as we have ourselves attained to…But we are citizens of Heaven; our outlook goes beyond this world to the hopeful expectation of the Savior who will come from Heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He will change these wretched bodies of ours so that they resemble his own glorious body, by that power of his which makes him the master of everything that is.  — Philippians 3:12-21 (PHI)

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Thanks

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus.  –1 Corinthians 1:4

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.  –1 Corinthians 15:57

There is the wave breast of thanksgiving—a catching God’s eye with the easy motions of praise—and a time for it.  In ancient Israel’s rites for a voluntary offering of thanksgiving, the priest comes before the altar in clean linen, empty-handed.  Into his hands is placed the breast of the slain unblemished ram of consecration:  and he waves it as a wave offering before the Lord…Thanks be to God.    (The Annie Dillard Reader, pg. 414)

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  –Romans 1:21

Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!  –2 Corinthians 9:15

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.  –Ephesians 1:16

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  –Colossians 3:17

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  –Philippians 4:6

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. –Colossians 2:6-7

Still Coughing

What does coughing have to do with prayer?  Another special devotion I read in Haiti from A Word for the Day  was regarding the Greek words “proseuchomai adialeiptos,” which means “pray without ceasing” (see 1 Thessalonians 5:17).  The author explained it this way:

This word was used in Roman times for a nagging cough; while the person didn’t cough every moment, he would still cough often, so it could be said of him, “He’s still coughing.”  In other words, prayer is not just those specific times when we pray, but also a constant communion with God, a continuous consciousness of God’s presence in which we view everything in life in relation to Him…every moment is a moment for prayer; like the cough, we’re still praying.  In short, we view everything that comes along from a spiritual perspective.

Well, it just so happened that I read this the morning after I visited the orphanage in Haiti.  One girl really caught my attention because she had a constant cough like this.  I really took it to heart to pray for her and to understand what it means to “pray without ceasing.”  It doesn’t mean to pray 24/7; it means you keep on praying, keep on returning to it.  I would say my life is like that.  I almost always try to see things from God’s perspective.  If I’m not happy with a situation, or if I’m frustrated, I will say (literally) to God, “What’s this about?  What are You doing here?”  — in an effort to get His perspective.  I am continually returning to pray, regarding nearly everything in life.  I never want to try to control Him; I simply want to leave things in His hands.  He knows best.  I pray in order to commune with Him, express my trust and need of Him, and seek to understand.  Like a persistent cough, I will never stop praying.

I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.  Philippians 1:3-4 (HCSB)

For this reason also, since the day we heard this, we haven’t stopped praying for you.  Colossians 1:9 (HCSB)

Energized by God

I was reading the Bible every day that I was in Haiti, just as I do at home.  I was also reading the devotional A Word for the Day, by J. D. Watson.  I really agreed with what he said about prayer, particularly as seen in the verses below.

The effectual fervent prayer of a rightous man availeth much.  James 5:16 (NIV)

The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.  James 5:16 (NASB)

He pointed out that normally we think this means that righteous people’s prayers are more powerful or effective than unrighteous people.  Or we think that we need to pray long and hard.  This is what the author said:

Many people take this verse to mean, “If I pray fervently and intensely, if I just pray hard enough, long enough, and often enough for a particular thing, it will happen.”  But such an idea flies in the face of the principle that prayer involves conforming our will to God’s will.

The Greek word for “effectual fervent” is the word “energeo,” which means (not surprisingly) “to energize, to be at work, to effect something.”  This word is almost exclusively used in the Bible for the work of divine or demonic powers.  Two scriptures that use this word (in opposite directions) are Ephesians 1:18-19 and Ephesians 2:1-2.

I pray that the perception of your mind may be enlightened so you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the glorious riches of His inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of His power to us who believe, according to the working of His vast strength.  Ephesians 1:18-19 (HCSB)

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens, the spirit now working in the disobedient.  Ephesians 2:1-2 (HCSB)

The author continues:

…it’s then easy to see exactly what James is saying.  He’s not telling us that we accomplish much by our own energy in prayer, but rather that our prayers are strong, because they are energized by God.  We could translate this verse, “The God-energized prayer of a righteous man is strong.”

Isn’t that great?  It’s never about us; it’s always about Him.

For it is God who is working in you, enabling you both to desire and to work out His good purpose. Philippians 2:13 (HCSB)

For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.  Colossians 1:29 (ESV)

Notice the children praying in the video below — this is what I’m talking about!