Praying In Every Situation of Life

celtic-trinity-knot-by-kristen-fox-300x300Pray in Every Situation of Life

The book of James is one of the most helpful books in all of the Bible.  Written by James, the brother of Jesus, the book has a pastoral tone and is filled with practical application.  Near the end of the letter, James turns his attention to the crucial issue of prayer.  He writes:

Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

(James 5:13-18 ESV)

The thing that immediately stands out to me in these verses is that James advises us to pray in every situation of life.  Notice that he says to pray when we are suffering, when we are cheerful and when we are sick.  In other words, we  are to pray in the bad times and in the good.  We are to pray in every situation of life.

This is important advice because I think that we all have a tendency to put prayer off to the last resort.  In the bad times of life, we tend to try every other remedy before turning to the Lord in prayer.  Sometimes, I will hear people say things like “well all we can do now is to pray.”  On the opposite extreme, during the good times of life we often find that we neglect to praise God and to acknowledge what He is doing around us.  Both of these attitudes reflect a fundamental problem that we all have — we tend to forget that God is control of every situation.

A Plan for Learning to Pray Throughout the Day

The remedy to this situation is to build a habit of praying throughout the day.  In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 the Apostle Paul tells us to, “Pray without ceasing.”  In other words, our daily life needs to be characterized by prayer.  Let me give you a suggestion for how to develop this habit in your life.  First, get yourself a 4 index cards.  On the first card right Adoration, on the second Confession, on the third Thanksgiving, and on the final card write the word Supplication.

Place the card that says Adoration in a place where you will see it early in the morning.  Somewhere where you will be able to see it as you are first getting started on your day.  Place the second card somewhere where you will see it mid-morning.  For instance, if you work at an office you might want to hang it at the bottom of your computer screen.  Place the third card where you will see it during the mid-afternoon and the final card where you will be able to see it during your evening meal.

In the morning when you get up and see the first card spend time praising God for who He is and what He is like.  Tell Him how much you love Him and why you love Him.  Try to be specific and try to praise Him for something new everyday.  Then in the mid-morning when you see the card marked confession, spend a few minutes asking God for forgiveness of whatever sins that you have committed.  In the afternoon thank Him for the specific blessings that you have received that day.  I find that this is a good habit because sometimes I get in a bad mood during the afternoon.  The stress of work, life and family tends to build up on me during the afternoon and I find it refreshing to remember and thank God for the blessings that He has given me.  TRY IT!  I guarantee your attitude will start to change.  Then in the evening spend time praying for whatever needs you have.

What you will find over a couple of weeks is that what starts out feeling artificial will grow more natural and soon you will be talking with God throughout the day.  You will become more aware of His presence and will notice a change occurring in your life.

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Attitude Shapes Character

 

Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 4.21.03 PMIn late May or early June my first book “Cultivating A Gospel Shaped Attitude” is going to bereleased. This morning I want to share with you a short excerpt from the book dealing with the way our attitude shapes our character.  The basic premise of the book is that if we want to have a Christ-like character we must first cultivate the gospel-shaped attitudes that are described for us in the Beatitudes.  If you find this excerpt interesting please sign up to follow my blog by email so that you will receive automatic updates about the release.  I would ask that you help me to start spreading the word about this book by sharing the link to this blog on your Facebook and Twitter accounts.  Here is a short excerpt from the book.

Attitude Shapes Character

Our attitude refers to the way we evaluate other people, our circumstances, and ourselves. More fundamentally, our attitudes determine how we make decisions; therefore, they exhibit a strong effect upon our behavior. We’ve all seen children, for instance, who exhibit a bad attitude when told not to do something and then react by making a bad decision. When I was about nine years old, my younger brother, Ron, received a pool table as a birthday present. One night while playing pool, I developed a bad attitude because Ron had beaten me three or four games in a row. At the time, I was convinced he must have been cheating—perhaps by telepathically altering the course of the balls as they crossed the table—and the next thing I knew, my anger erupted and I broke one of his pool cues over my knee. My bad attitude led to a bad decision, which resulted in even a worse consequence when my dad came rushing into the room. Do you see how my attitude affected my decision-making? My decision in this situation was directly related to the way I viewed my brother and the circumstances of the game.

While this story represents one single episode in the course of my life, it raises an important question. What would have happened had I continued to cultivate this attitude? How would people describe my character if, over the course of time, I continued to exhibit this same attitude and repeatedly made these kinds of rash decisions? Eventually, I would have developed a reputation for being a hothead, and people would start to think of me as being ill tempered. My actions, which were driven by my attitude, would eventually come to define my character. This is why I argue that in Matthew 5:1–11, Jesus is talking about our attitudes rather than our character. Attitudes are more fundamental than character. Any change in our character must begin with a change in our attitudes. This is why I say that a gospel-shaped attitude leads to Christ-honoring actions that when exhibited over time will result in a Christlike character. The end result is a life conformed to the character of Christ, but it all starts with our attitude.

The apostle Paul summarized this pattern of spiritual formation in Philippians 2:5–8 when he said, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”[1] The word mind in this passage could also be translated as “attitude.” In essence, Paul uses the word mind to describe how Jesus viewed Himself and other people: He saw Himself as a servant and other people as being in great spiritual need. Jesus’ attitude resulted in definitive actions; He “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.” In other words, Jesus’ attitude resulted in specific actions, which in turn came to define His character. This is the basic formula for all spiritual growth and maturity.

But let me be clear, Jesus is not talking about some kind of flaky positive thinking or health-and-wealth philosophy. He is not suggesting that we refuse to accept reality by viewing life through rose-colored glasses. Instead, Jesus is urging us to view life through the lens of the gospel. Simply put, the gospel is the good news that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, paid the penalty for our sins by His death on the cross. He was buried and rose triumphantly from the grave, so that anyone who will repent of his or her sin and believe in Him will receive the forgiveness of sin and be reconciled to God. The more deeply we reflect on the glory and majesty of the gospel message, the more we recognize how it permeates every area of our life and ministry. As we work our way through the Beatitudes, we will discover how each of these attitudes is deeply grounded in the gospel and how together they provide a comprehensive picture of knowing Jesus and developing a Christlike character.

From “Cultivating A Gospel Shaped Attitude: Understanding and Living the Beatitudes” (Nashville: Crossbooks, 2013) Copyright 2013 Joseph Buchanan


[1] All scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).