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On praying...

While in college I took more courses in history than I did in religion, and I read quite a bit more about the Civil War than other events. We’re seeing most of the statues and monuments erected to the Confederate soldiers and generals removed from public parks, but evil as slavery is and was, there were nonetheless some very good generals in the South as well as the North. My favorite Confederate General was Stonewall Jackson. It’s said that the Rebel soldiers admired Jefferson Davis, were proud of Robert E. Lee, but that they loved Stonewall Jackson.

One reason, I think they held him in such esteem, is that this man was a devout Christian. Yes, he was on the wrong side of a horrible civiil war, but he was a man of incredible character and prayer. While he taught at West Point, it was said, for example, in regard to prayer, that he wrote the following: “I have so fixed the habit in my own mind that I never raise a glass of water to my lips without a moment's asking of God's blessing. I never seal a letter without putting a word of prayer under the seal. I never take a letter from the post without a brief sending of my thoughts heavenward. I never change classes in the section room without a minute's petition on the cadets who go out and those who come in.” “In General “Stonewall Jackson,” God found a true man who would stand in the gap. Both strong and tender, the motto of his life was, “Lord what wilt thou have me to do?” As fervent in the field of battle, so was Jackson on his knees in prayer. As a general in the Confederate Army, “Stonewall Jackson” had a profound influence over his men. It was his holy and prayerful example that contributed to the great revival among the Southern troops. By midsummer of 1863, revival had spread to all the Confederate armies.

A chaplain of the 26th Alabama Regiment said that his unit alone averaged 100 converts a week for several weeks. During this same time another chaplain declared that, ‘modern history presents no example of an army so nearly converted. A third of all soldiers in the field were men of prayer and members of some fellowship. J. W. Jones suggested that 150,000 conversions took place in Lee’s Army alone. It was this revival that no doubt prepared the South for the humiliation that was to follow their eventual defeat, but best of all the revival prepared thousands of young and old alike to meet Christ in eternity (many only too soon). Truly, General Jackson impacted our history through the power of prayer.” (by Rex Rouis)

Obviously we don’t need slavery in America again, but we do need men and women of prayer and conviction like Stonewall Jackson. Do you fall on your knees and pray like Jackson…and like Jesus Himself?

Mark 1:35, “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”

When you think about prayer, consider the very best example of onethat prayed—-and that could only of course be Jesus Christ. We don’t have a lot of examples of His prayers, but those we do have, are examples of clarity, simplicity and an assuredness that His prayers were heard and would be answered. When you pray, do you have that confidence?

Though He was the Son of God, His prayers were humble, earnest and to the point. We’re told that He prayed before He ate, when in agony, when He was concerned for others, and that He routinely rose early to pray and went to quiet, lonely places. Again, Jesus is our model, our example. If you are not a morning person, consider this: it is your destiny to have your character conformed to the very character of Jesus—-and He was an early riser.

So why did He rise early? Because time with His Father was His first priority each day. By rising early He set the pace and focus of His entire day—-which was to be about His Father’s work. He loved the disciples, but the Father came first, and He was quick to let Peter know this (See Matthew 16:23). Jesus rose early because the others were still asleep … it was be His special, private time with His Father.

Friends, it was the habit of Jesus to rise early and pray and we need the same habit!  The manner we display the love and holiness of God in public is in proportion to the time we spend with Him in private.  Have you dedicated time to Him in the morning?  Like a deer panting for water is that the first think you seek? 

-Why to a solitary place? To be free from distractions, people and anything else that might interfere with that special, intimate time. It’s not that He did not love people or the villages, but rather that he wanted to be undistracted and focused on His great love. Is it any different for those of us who when we fall in love? We want to be alone with our beloved and the fewer people around the better. We enjoy those pleasant times of being free from chatter, noise and activity, and simply at a place where we can be with the one we love.

So, do you have a place to hide when you pray? A closet, a special room, maybe the bathroom, or perhaps you head outside to a hideaway? Jesus suggested a special place where no one could even see you doing it. A time and a place for God’s attention—-no one else’s.

-But why did Jesus, the Son, pray to God, the Father in the first place? Well, not because He had to, nor because He was unsure of what He was supposed to do, or because he was afraid or weak, or worried. He prayed because of His abundant, overflowing love for the Father. It was His very nature to pray to His Father. He wanted to be alone, intimate, and in the presence of the One that loved Him—-and that He loved—more than anything or anyone else. He desired that time with His Father because He had enjoyed that intimacy for all eternity and He knew that nothing satisfied Him like time spent with His father.

What about you? Do you pray, because, quite frankly, you can’t help it? Has it become a part of your everyday nature to pray——all the time and in all circumstances like Stonewall Jackson?

Let me tell you what makes the difference in prayer and what will cause you to want to stay. Get in the habit of sitting at his feet and gazing upon His incredible power, presence and holy awesomeness. It’s a privilege to pray—we’re so blessed to be able to enter into His holy court.

As you merely sit there, in your heart you will find yourself standing in awe and in need of no questions or answers from Him. You will discover that you also are at a loss for even considering a request or petition to Him. You just want to be with Him. You are keenly aware that He sees you, that He approves of you, that He is proud of you—-and you also know that nothing compares to His omniscience. It’s humbling, but not embarrassing or humiliating.

So much of our “standing” prayers are about asking, complaining, whining, fretting, dreading and, quite often, telling Him how dissatisfied with life we are.  As you listen to some folks pray it can be quite depressing!  But somethings transpires when we humble ourselves and sit at His feet or knell to Him His prayer. It is at those times we simply yearn to be in His presence.  That’s the kind of prayer that needs to signal the beginning of our days!

Mark 1:35 NLT – Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. Our main goal as Christians is to be more like Christ. So it’s important to take our cue from Jesus when it comes to our quiet times.

But before I close, a few closing points:

1. As you pray, beware of thinking it’s okay in to get angry with God. It’s the devil’s lie! It is unfathomable and unimaginable to suggest that Jesus ever got angry with His Father! The men that got angry with God in the Old Testament (Jonah, David) were always wrong about their anger. God loves us and is patient and kind to us, but it’s not the proper place in our relationship to Him to get mad at Him. You won’t find any scripture in the New Testament of this happening. If you think you don’t deserve what’s going on in your life, one of two things are true: (1) You’re right, you don’t deserve it, you deserve a lot worse, or

(2) As with Job and even Christ His Son, God has permitted your suffering for a greater purpose. Trust Him 2. And what about fasting? Do you fast? Jesus did, the apostles did; Jesus spoke to His followers as if they would fast from time to time. We ought to. Right now our nation should be called by our President to a national day of fasting—-can you imagine what could follow!?

3. What is the purpose of prayer? Ultimately, is it not to “get” anything, but rather to “become” something not-of-this-world. Sitting at the feet of our Savior and yearning to have a personal, intimate time will produce peace, purpose, union and power in your life. Do you lack this? If you do, then I can guarantee you that you are not seeking Him early in the morning and LISTENING TO HIM, rather than blathering your demands to Him. Men, do you rise first in your home to seek Him? Are you setting the standard and example for your wife, children and associates? Do you find a place, where you can be alone? Do you soak up the glory of simply being in His presence? And when you pray are you confident that He hears you and will answer? Are you able to make your petitions known to Him and then let go and trust Him? The Bible never addresses the possibility of unanswered prayer to those that are properly praying! Are you interceding for others, or are your prayers all about you and your family?

4. Finally, when you wake up are your first words,”good God it’s already morning”, or “Good morning God”?

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