Day 3) “DAILY PRAISE!”

 

JKBcircleDay 3) “Daily Praise!”

Praise refocuses our attention off of ourselves and onto God. Praise is prayer that applauds God. In the 10 days leading up to Pentecost, the early church made praise a priority for the entire congregation.

Luke provides us with a two part description of the prayer life of the church during those preparatory days. In his first volume, Luke describes the pattern of daily praise. “And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy,
and were continually in the temple blessing God.”
(Luke 24:52-53) The word “blessing” literally means they kept saying good words about God. That’s praise!

In Luke’s second volume, we find the church praying in the upper room of a house (Acts 1:13-14). Therefore, Luke shows us how the church spent part of the day in the Temple praising God, and the rest of the day in the house praying.

The early church had a reason to praise the Lord- Jesus had been raised from the dead! We should adopt their practice of daily praise and make it part of our daily prayer lives. We have every reason to praise the Lord and no reason not to. After all, He is still risen and reigning. He still answers prayer. He loves us with an everlasting love- why wouldn’t we praise Him daily? image

Today, pause to praise God. Express your love and commitment to Him. Allow your heart to pour out words of devotion. He deserves your praise and you will be drawn closer to His heart as a result. “It’s amazing what praising can do.” Praise the Lord!

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~JKB

Day 2) SUPER-CHARGING YOUR PRAYERS

JKBcircle

Day 2) “Super-Charging Your Prayers!”

Would you like to add nuclear fusion to your prayer life? Fasting does for prayer what jet fuel does for the engine of an F-4 PHANTOM fighter jet. It lifts it off the ground with power!

While fasting is not mentioned in the prayer of the upper room it is certainly probable that part, if not all, of their time was spent fasting as well as praying. Why is this possible? For one thing, fasting would have been normal for devout Jews who frequently fasted as part of their spiritual disciplines. In addition, the Old Testament (their Bible) is full of examples of godly men and women who fasted and prayed. More importantly, Jesus had predicted that when He was taken away from His disciples, then they would fast (Luke 5:35). That time had come.

But there’s an even more compelling reason to believe fasting was part of the original upper room experience. The Scripture itself suggests the possibility the upper room was a place of fasting. Peter explained what happened in the upper room as a fulfillment of Joel 2:28, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh…” Do you remember what preceded that promise of the Spirit’s outpouring? God told the prophet, “Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly…” (Joel 2:15).

Before the outpouring of the Spirit, promised in Joel’s prophecy, God called His people to fast and pray! It’s possible the Apostles and others experienced the Holy Spirit as a visible answer to their prayers following a period of fasting. Peter correctly saw Pentecost as a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy which began with a call to fasting.

We cannot be absolutely certain they fasted in the upper room, of course, but we are certain the early church practiced fasting and prayer at other times when they were seeking God’s direction (Acts 13:1-3). Fasting today makes sense as we seek His direction and His presence in our own “upper room.”

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What is fasting? Fasting is simply denying your body food so you can spend more time in prayer. You can fast through one meal, half a day, 24 hours, or even longer. God will bless your obedience. Why should we fast? Fasting is always associated with prayer in Scripture. Prayer connects us to heaven while fasting disconnects us from earth! Fasting brings your body and all of it’s appetites under submission to God. Fasting with prayer teaches us to say “No!” to the physical desires of life in order to devote more focus on a spiritual hunger for God.

This week, plan to give God the gift of fasting as part of your “upper room” prayer. You will be amazed at the powerful, positive results!

Day 1) “The Power of Prayer Groups!”

 

 

JKBcircleWe should regularly pray in two ways: alone and with groups. The New Testament is filled with examples of disciples praying together, and when they did they received powerful results! So will we.

For 10 days after the Ascension of Christ, and before the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost, 120 original followers of Jesus spent 10 days praying in “The Upper Room” in Jerusalem. The results of that prayer meeting are still being felt today.

The term “upper room” has become nearly synonymous in the Christian vocabulary with a place of prayer. The upper room was a literal place in Jerusalem 2000 years ago but I am using the words “upper room” here as a metaphor for any place where believers gather today to believe God for miraculous answers, in response to fervent prayer.

“And when they had entered, they went up to the upper room, where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot and Judas the son of James.
All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”
(Acts 1:13-14)

There was no rank in the upper room prayer meeting. The Apostles were praying. The family of Jesus, including Mary His mother, was praying. The otherwise anonymous disciples, whose names we have never learned, were also there praying. Men and women were praying. Everyone in the Body of Christ can join the prayer meeting! And when we do, we should always expect powerful outcomes.

This week, of course you will often pray in solitude and we all should. In addition to private  prayer, however, we should all gather intentionally with others to pray! Praying with a few other people  will build your faith and God will hear your prayers. Find praying friends and your own “upper room” in the days ahead and watch God move!

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-JKB

UPPER ROOM PRAYER

JKBcircleUPPER ROOM PRAYER

Do you want to make a fresh commitment to prayer? If so, the New Testament gives us a model for prayer that can stretch your concept of what a praying church can achieve. No prayer meeting has ever had a more dramatic or lasting affect upon the church, like the 10 day gathering in the Upper Room which preceded the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:14-2:47). 2000 years later, we have found nothing to improve upon the power of God and nothing more crucial than a praying church.

In the 10 days leading to Pentecost, this year, Christian’s should pray with a sense of expectancy and dependance upon God, while trusting Him to manifest His power in bold new ways through our lives. The five categories of prayer, suggested here, are offered as ways to “jump start” your prayer life as we focus on “10 Days in the Upper Room.”

The goal of this 10 day period of prayer and fasting is to intensify our daily spiritual practices in order to spend more deliberate time seeking and experiencing the presence of God. While we are not advocating meeting for 10 days in a literal, physical “upper room,” we are praying many believers will dedicate their own “upper room,” wherever you can set aside more time for prayer on a daily basis. No matter where your personal “upper room” may be, you can pray for revival and spiritual awakening, assured that many others are praying too. The following five broad categories of prayer can be “spring boards,” suggested to take your Upper Room prayer to a new depth.

1) DO YOU KNOW HOW TO CONFESS?

I’m convinced most of us minimize the depth of our own sin. We are aghast at the failures of others and nonchalant about our own. But any authentic spiritual growth will be built on confessing our sins to God- who alone can discern the margin between our thoughts and our motives.

Repentance is one of the most important themes in the New Testament. For instance, John the Baptist and Jesus both turned to the subject of repentance when they preached their first sermons. It was as if they were “reading from the same script.

John’s first sermon addressed the need to confess sin. “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,
‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'” (Matthew 3:1-2) Later, after His 40 days of fasting in the Judean desert, Jesus returned to the cities with a message people had heard from John only a few months earlier. “From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'” (Matthew 4:17)

The deepest need of our heart is the need to experience God’s forgiveness. As you pray, confess everything to God. Don’t gloss over, in a cavalier fashion, the attitudes and actions that nailed Christ to the cross. Get real in prayer about your sin. The goal of repentance is forgiveness. Confess your sin, therefore, in complete transparency but cling for life to His promise: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

2) DO YOU KNOW ANYONE WHO NEEDS A BLESSING?

Jesus is an intercessor. He is praying for His church at this very moment. As our High Priest, He comes before God continually on our behalf. “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25) The Apostle Paul acknowledged the same truth about the intercessory ministry of Christ when he reminded the Roman church, “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died-more than that, who was raised-who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” (Romans 8:34)

Imagine it for a moment. Your sins were dealt with at the cross with one final sacrifice, but your daily life is brought before God in prayer moment by moment by none other than the Lord Jesus Himself! Do you know how many blessings you’ve received as a result of Christ’s intercession for you? All of them!

When you intercede for others, you are entering into a prayer partnership with Christ on another’s behalf. Intercession is praying for the needs of others. Who do you know who needs to know the Lord, or who needs to experience God’s help right now? Prayer can reach them when everything else fails.

Take time to pray for family members, friends, co-workers, classmates, and neighbors and God will both deepen your prayer life and open doors for further ministry. There are few rewards in the Christian life like praying for someone, and watching God answer that prayer. Remember, since Jesus is an intercessor, we are never more like Jesus than when we are selflessly praying for others.
3) DO YOU KNOW THERE IS POWER IN PRAISE?

As Christians we complain about the world too much and praise God too little. Is the world a mess? Yes. Is God still worthy of praise? Is He still seated upon the most exalted throne of authority and power? Is He still strong enough to answer prayer? Yes, even in the midst of the world’s defiance toward God, His church should praise Him.

Why? For one thing, the terrible circumstances of this moment are temporary, but God’s power can change everything and eventually will. When the psalmist was overwhelmed and discouraged by the political corruption and injustice all around him, he concluded he should give God praise. “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation.” (Psalm 42:5)

When you pray, give God praise and the atmosphere around you will change. Your focus will be more on God and less on your trouble. How is that possible? Again, the psalmist helps us understand. He said about God, “Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.” (Psalm 22:3) God manifests Himself in the praises of His people. When you praise Him, you are inviting Him to join you in your worship of Him. Your praise becomes His dwelling place. That makes praise worth it!

4) DO YOU PRAY WELL WITH OTHERS? 

Teams matter when you are praying! All of us need to devote time to private prayer, but the New Testament also offers numerous examples of powerful prayer meetings, which resulted in miraculous answers. The Day of Pentecost, and all of it’s history making events, occurred after a 10 day prayer meeting that changed the world. There are numerous other examples in the Book of Acts, including the church praying for Peter’s release from prison (Acts 12:6-17) and the Spirit’s selection of Paul to launch the Gentile mission (Acts 13:1-4). When we gather with other believers God can change our circumstances and possibly even change the world.

During this 10 Day spiritual journey, consider joining with a brother or sister or a small team of praying friends once or twice, or more, during the next 10 days to agree together in prayer.

5)  DO YOU BELIEVE REVIVAL IS POSSIBLE?

God CAN do what He has done before, and He CAN send revival to our churches and our cities. Ask God to bring His work to life in your immediate surroundings. Beg Him to lead pastors and leaders to form prayer fellowships with other pastors in the city. Ask for a fresh out[pouring of the Holy Spirit this Sunday at church so Christians are fired up and the lost will come to Christ. Pray your family, your church, and your city will be caught up in a rising tide of repentance and faith leading to a season of God’s Word spreading like wildfire through people’s lives. Pray for a spiritual awakening to bring people to God.

 

CONCLUSION

In the next 10 days, God can do more through our united and deliberate prayers than we have ever seen Him do before. Will you join us in the “Upper Room”?

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~JKB

 

 

 

FASTING

JKBcircleSomeone has said,Prayer connects you to heaven and fasting disconnects you from earth.”  In a certain way that’s true. When we combine fasting with prayer something powerful happens. Most prayer warriors in Scripture and in history discovered this truth for themselves. Now it’s our turn.

What Is Fasting?

In the Greek New Testament the word “fasting” is easy to understand. The literal translation is “no eat.” In the Hebrew Old Testament the word “fasting” is even more direct. The most literal translation is “shut mouth.” Fasting is the practice of refraining from food for a period of time specifically for the purpose of drawing near to God.

Moses fasted. Elijah and Daniel, Joel and Nehemiah, Ezra and thousands of others fasted in the Old Testament. Then in New Testament times Jesus fasted, John the Baptist and his followers fasted. Paul and Barnabas and the early church fasted and God blessed each of them as a result. Fasting is part of our walk with God.

Jesus expects His followers to fast. In His most famous sermon, Jesus said, “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:16-18) Twice in those 3 verses on fasting, Jesus said “When you fast…” He didn’t say “if you fast”, He said “When you fast…” Jesus expects us to fast.

Later, His critics challenged Him because His disciples were not fasting even though the disciples of John the Baptist did fast. Jesus’ answer, as always, was revealing. He told the critics His disciples were like friends celebrating with the groom at a wedding party.  Who would expect them to fast at a time like that? He then added, however, “The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.” (Mark 2:20) We are now living in the period when the bridegroom has been “taken away” and Jesus said, “… then they will fast.” They will fast. The “then” is now. The “they” is us. Jesus didn’t say they might fast. He said they will fast. Jesus expects His followers to fast until the bridegroom returns!

How to Fast

Fasting isn’t as difficult as we think since we are able to train and discipline our appetites. The key to denying your physical hunger is feeding your soul. Prayer and Bible study replace food when you fast. 

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To learn to fast, try skipping one meal. In the time you would have spent eating, read the Bible and pray. Feed your soul. Remember, fasting is not dieting. Fasting is a spiritual discipline that accompanies prayer. Prayer is often mentioned in Scripture without fasting but fasting in Scripture is almost never mentioned apart from prayer.

After you’ve made it through one meal, the next week build up to missing two meals so you can pray, read more of the word, and worship. Soon, you will learn how to spend an entire day fasting and it will seem easier as you do it more.

If you will drink plenty of water while you’re fasting it helps curb the appetite and of course will keep you feeling more refreshed. Avoid sugar drinks but 100% fruit or vegetable juice in moderation will help sustain you during longer fasts. You will be surprised how energetic and alert you will feel as you fast and pray.

God’s Word will spring to life in your mind and spirit as you read chapter after chapter, all the while seeking God’s face when fasting. Prayer will seem more spontaneous and faith will rise up inside you.

If you have to follow a medical diet you should check with your doctor before attempting a long fast. If you must eat something in order to take daily medications, or for some other reason, you might consider a type of “Daniel fast”. He fasted from only certain rich, tasty foods and lived on a small controlled diet for a few weeks. If you must eat for medical reasons, could you do a “fruit fast” one day where all you eat is a small amount of fresh fruit? Because our bodies are so accustomed to large portions and variety, you can still get the benefits of fasting even if you ate an apple instead of a large meal. 

No matter how you approach the fast, the key is Bible reading with prayer. Try fasting and as you discipline your body you will discover a deeper walk with God and more faith in your prayers! You can do it.

~JKB