In our New Testament reading we’ll talk about Jesus’ outline for prayer and how we can use it during our devotional time. We’ll also talk about our motives for praying and reading God’s Word.
From our Old Testament reading, “How do you evaluate opportunities?,” we’ll see how not to make decisions and some ways to evaluate opportunities.
Also, today, “The Joy of Spiritual Prosperity,” “The Fear of God,” and “The Importance of Forgiveness.”
Genesis 13 & 14
An Outline for Prayer
In the introduction to the “Lord’s Prayer,” Jesus addresses motives. Why do we do what we do, whether praying, fasting, giving, or reading through the Bible?
Our goal in anything should be the same as Paul’s was in 2 Corinthians 5.9.
“I make it my ambition [some translations say goal or aim] whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to the Lord.”
Paul was saying, I want to please God with my life whether through life or through death. There may be other appropriate goals, but pleasing God should be our primary goal in life.
When it comes to reading His Word, what would be pleasing to Him? Not to gather a lot of Bible knowledge so we can impress others. Not to say we did it. Not to check one more thing off our to-do list.
We are to discipline ourselves to read and study and meditate on God’s Word for the purpose of becoming more like Christ (1 Tim. 4.7) and, like Mary, so we will come to know Him better by sitting at His feet (Lk. 10.38-42).
So as we start this new year in God’s Word, let’s read more thoughtfully. Let’s take time to ask God how we should apply it to specific areas of our lives and pray for His grace to make those changes.
“Lord, teach us to pray”
Verses 5-13 contain a great outline for prayer. In the parallel passage in Luke 11, one of the disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray.” That request was followed by this model prayer. Rather than praying it repetitiously, try taking each phrase and expanding on it in your own words.
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name” – We should let worship be the starting point. You might pray one or more of the names of God or talk to Him about His various attributes.
“Your kingdom come, Your will be done” – This is an opportunity to verbally submit your will to His.
“Give us this day our daily bread” – This is about more than food, but expressing all our needs to Him.
“And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” – We should be asking Him to forgive us of our sins on a regular basis and staying in an attitude of forgiveness toward others.
“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” – Ask Him for His protection. guidance and discernment.
“For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever” – We should end as we began, with worship.
The Importance of Forgiveness
Jesus ended this passage on prayer by re-emphasizing the importance of forgiving others.
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
If you are struggling to forgive someone, take it to the Lord, repent of your unwillingness to forgive, and ask for His help.
Lord, help me to be a good “repenter”—to be quick to seek Your forgiveness when I have sinned. Help me to be quick to seek forgiveness from others, as well, and to stay in an attitude of forgiveness when others sin against me. Help me to seek You in every decision and to consider Your will and purposes for my life and not just my own selfish desires, in Jesus name—amen.
Today’s Other Readings:
How do you evaluate opportunities?
Chapter 13 contains an interesting story about Abram and Lot. We find them both prospering with growing herds and a growing need for water and pastureland. This caused strife between their herdsmen, so rather than allow that to happen, Abram suggested they split up.
Abram was the elder and certainly had the right to the best land, but he unselfishly gave Lot first choice of the land. Lot’s response was quite different, verses 10-13:
10 And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere (before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the garden of the LORD, like the land of Egypt as you go toward Zoar. 11 Then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan, and Lot journeyed east. And they separated from each other. 12 Abram dwelt in the land of Canaan, and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain and pitched his tent even as far as Sodom. 13 But the men of Sodom were exceedingly wicked and sinful against the LORD.
Lot, it seems, looked longingly at the prosperity and blessings this region offered without concern for the spiritual conditions to which he would be exposing himself and his family, setting the stage for events to come.
What is your first thought when offered a job or some other opportunity? Is it the thought of material blessing? Is it the prestige? Or are your first thoughts about how it might affect your family spiritually, how it might affect your marriage, or how your relationship with God might be affected?
Will taking on a new opportunity allow you to be involved in ministry? Will you have time to devote to God and your personal relationship with Him? If it involves a move, do you check out the churches or do you look primarily at the temporal advantages? Do you pray and seek God or do you make the decisions which seems right to you and expect God to get on board?
The Joy of Spiritual Prosperity
Verses 7-8, “You have put gladness in my heart, more than in the season that their grain and wine increased. I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.”
The psalmist understood that God offered something far beyond material blessings, something the “Lots” of this world do not understand. His blessings include a kind of peace, joy and safety that cannot come from the world and cannot be purchased with money, fame, or success. They come from a relationship with Jesus Christ and a willingness to allow Him to be the Lord and Master of our lives.
The Fear of God: Awe-Filled Respect
1 My son, if you receive my words,
And treasure my commands within you,
2 So that you incline your ear to wisdom,
And apply your heart to understanding;
3 Yes, if you cry out for discernment,
And lift up your voice for understanding,
4 If you seek her as silver,
And search for her as for hidden treasures;
5 Then you will understand the fear of the Lord,
And find the knowledge of God.
I hope your 2017 is off to a good start, that it will be a year of drawing closer to God and growing in the character qualities of Christ.
What will you do to make Bible reading an ongoing habit in 2017? I’d like to encourage you to set a goal to read through the Bible.
And I hope you’ll sign up for my daily email. It can serve as a gentle reminder to stay on track. I try to make comments that are relevant to the daily struggles and questions that I hear in my counseling and discipleship ministries.
You can also follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, or Google+. Just click on the social media icons. But nothing replaces having the daily devotion pop up in your inbox each day. It, usually (once in a while life gets in the way), goes out at 3 a.m. MST, so it’s there for early risers no matter what time zone you’re in.
So will you join me and, possibly, encourage someone else to do the same. (Why not email or call them right now?) Let’s get ready and grow in our relationship with Him together.
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“Bible in a Year” posts have been edited and updated from previous posts.