06 Pray with a listening heart!

In the early 1980’s Karen and I were working hard to become totally debt free. We did not have car loans, credit card debt, or any other debt except our mortgage. So, we lived in a small 1400-square foot house in a very modest neighborhood. We eliminated almost all expenses, except for  food, gas, and clothing, but we did continue to give our tithes and other offerings. We prayed daily for God to help us become debt-free. Our prayers were that we would become debt-free in seven years, which was the longest debt period we saw in scripture. One morning as I was praying, the Lord said very clearly, “I want you to pray to be debt-free in three years, not seven years.” So, from that day on we prayed to be debt free in that three-year time frame. Three years later, we received a call from a man who asked what our remaining balance was on our mortgage. We told him, and he sent us a check and we paid it off. It was exactly three years from the day the Lord spoke to us about praying to be debt-free in three years. When we pray, we need to take time to listen to the Lord’s responses to our prayers. Sometimes, He will give us further guidance about how to pray specifically.

Thanks giving meal

05 Pray with thanksgiving!

Karen and I have prayed together every morning for many years. We begin our prayers with thanksgivings, and then we begin to praise God and hallow His name. In Psalm 100:4, we are told to enter His gates with thanksgivings and His courts with praise, so we have tried to begin our prayer times that way. In 1 Chronicles 16:4-7 David assigned Asaph and his relatives to give thanks to the Lord. That was their main job, to continually give thanks to the Lord. In Psalm 50:23 God tells us that those that offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving honor Him. In 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 we are told to pray without ceasing and in everything give thanks for this is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus. In Hebrews 13:15 we are told to continually offer a sacrifice to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. The scriptures are clear in the Old and New Testament that we are to continually give thanks to the Lord; that is His will for our lives.

Some mornings we may spend thirty minutes just giving thanks and praising His name. We do not even get to praying for our daily bread, for His protection, and the many other things that we usually pray about. But, God already knows those needs of ours, and He also knows that we have taken time to honor Him with our prayers of thanksgivings and praises. I encourage you to take time to thank God for all the things that He has done and continues to do in your life.

04 Pray for souls!

In 1997 Karen and I were planting our first church. Our church placed an ad in the Marietta Journal. The next week I received a letter from a man named Steve, who was serving time in the Cobb County Adult Detention Center. He asked if I would come visit him in jail. Because of Hebrews 13:3 and Matthew 25:36-39, I had a desire to reach out to those in prison. But, before I went to visit Steve, our church prayed for Steve for two straight weeks. We prayed for his salvation and for the Holy Spirit to move powerfully. When I met Steve, God did move powerfully. The Holy Spirit came on Steve, and he began crying as I shared the gospel with him. He prayed to receive Christ. I did not know it at the time, but Steve was a leader. His bunk mate received Christ the following week when I came to do some follow-up ministry. Every week thereafter men were receiving Christ.

God wants us to pray about everything, but God did not send His Son to die for cocktail trees, oak trees, and the many other things that He freely gives us. He sent His Son out of His love for people. The early church prayed for boldness, for open doors to share the gospel, and for souls and God answered their prayers. I encourage you to pray for your lost family members. I encourage you to pray for your neighbors and co-workers. I encourage you to pray for souls. I received a call from Steve last year, 22 years later. He is walking with Christ, and he called to say thanks for reaching out to him in prison. Oak trees and cocktail trees are temporal, but souls are eternal.

03 Pray specifically!

In 1986, I had seen God answer lots of specific prayers. He was really encouraging us to pray about everything. After receiving the oak trees, I began to pray for a cocktail tree. A cocktail tree is one that has had several kinds of fruit trees grafted into it. Since I was living in Florida, I prayed for a citrus cocktail tree, one with oranges, lemons, and grapefruit.

Shortly after our sixth child, David, was born, I received a phone call from Fred Dunn, who lived in Apopka, Florida. At that time he owned Dunn Nurseries. Fred was an elder in his church, and he had heard from someone at our church in Orlando that the Murchisons had just had their sixth child. Even though Fred did not know me, he called me to congratulate us on our sixth child. He said that he wanted to give us a special baby gift. He added that I would probably not know anything about what he was going to give us, but God had moved on his heart to give us a cocktail tree. I told Fred that I had been praying for a cocktail tree, and that this was an answer to prayer. I was really excited. I drove to Apopka, Florida and introduced myself to Fred Dunn. He showed me their selection of cocktail trees and let me pick out the one that I wanted. I thanked him for it, and went home and planted the tree. Once again, God had answered another specific prayer. We enjoyed the fruit from that tree for the next seven years, which is when we moved from Orlando to Atlanta. Pray specifically. Trust God to provide your every need and desire. He delights in our prayers and loves to give good gifts to His children.

02 Pray Specifically

In 1985 Karen and I moved into a house at 1340 Boreas Drive in Orlando, Florida. The developer had not planted any trees in the yards, so looked rather bare. I began to pray for God to give me an oak tree for the front yard. I prayed every day for this oak tree for nearly a year. It would have been easy to go to Home Depot and buy a $10.00 oak tree, but I was asking God to provide an oak tree. One day I drove up to my house and could not help but see two Water Oak trees in my front yard. On my door there were instructions on how to take care of my newly planted oak trees. Orange County had come and planted these two oak trees and they left the instructions on our front door. None of the other houses in the neighborhood received an oak tree or any other kind of tree. Our house really stood out because of the oak trees. My neighbors wanted to know why I got oak trees. I was happy to pull out my prayer notebook and show them that I had been praying for God to give me an oak tree for the past year, and He was behind it. I never told anyone except for Karen that I was praying for an oak tree. I never contacted anyone at Orange County. I simply prayed and asked God to provide, which He did. He gave me two oak trees, not just one. Pray specifically. Pray persistently. Pray expectantly. Our Father in heaven loves to answer our prayers.

Ford 15-Passenger Van

01 Pray Specifically

Pray specifically!

In 1989, Karen was expecting David, our sixth child, and we were out of room in our Chevrolet Celebrity wagon. So, we were praying for a 15-passenger van. We heard our friends, Ken and Gail Barnes, needed another bench for their tan van. We did not want the last bench in a van, as we needed it for strollers, groceries, etc., so, we asked God for a tan back bench for the van that we would buy. We found a used maroon 15-passenger that fit our budget, and when the salesman showed it to us, it was missing the back bench. I asked the salesman where the back bench was, and he said they did not have one, but they would be glad to give us a back bench, and they did. And you guessed it, the only bench they had to give us was a tan bench for our maroon van. The salesman apologized that it didn’t match, but we were excited. God had answered a very specific prayer for a tan bench. We were able to bless the Barnes with a tan bench that matched their van, and we had a van that fit our family needs.

Election Lesson

One of the takeaways from this election is the message of the gospel and the life of the messenger must be one and the same. I heard from many Christians across America that they could not support Trump because of his personality or character flaws. Many other Christians were willing to overlook personality or character issues, and voted to support the platform. Both groups agreed that the platform of the Republican party were far more aligned with Biblical values. One group rejected the platform because of the life of the messenger. The other group said that “pride does not kill millions of unborn babies,” and they thought it unfathomable to vote for anyone supporting abortion.

God has called the church to preach the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul was very concerned about the message of the gospel and the life of the messenger. In 1 Corinthians 9:27, he wrote, “but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” He did not want anything in his life interfering with the preaching of the gospel message.

In Titus 2:9-10, he encouraged bond-slaves to be subject to their masters, be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of our Savior in every respect.” Again, he did not want the life of these slaves to contradict or hinder the message of the gospel.

In Philippians 1:27, Paul wrote, “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ…” The way that we conduct ourselves, in speech and in lifestyle, needs to be in alignment with the message of the gospel. If we want the world to accept the gospel message, they need to see us living the gospel message.

05 Why We Worship

Another reason that we worship God is found in Psalm 29:1-2. David begins the Psalm by exhorting us to ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. He tells us to ascribe to the Lord the glory due to His name. There are hundreds of names of God, but the one used here is LORD. The Hebrew word is Jehovah (YHWH, Yahweh), and it is used 5321 times in Scripture. It means the self-existent and eternal God. The word is used in conjunction with many other names. Here are just a few examples. He is the Lord God our Righteousness (Jehovah Tsidkenu). He is the Lord God our Peace (Jehovah Shalom). He is the Lord God our Healer (Jehovah Rophe). He is the Lord God our Banner of Victory (Jehovah Nissi). He is the Lord God our Provider (Jehovah Jireh). The name of the LORD was to be revered and honored.

Although the word “due” is not in the Hebrew text, the King James, New American Standard, and English Standard Version all put “due his name.” When I think of the word due, I think of something that is owed to someone. At the end of the month we get an electric bill, and it has a due date. We have used the electricity and there is a charge for using that electricity. We get a bill from the electric company and that payment is due to them. We have so many benefits from God, and in Psalm 103:2 we are told not to forget any of those benefits. When we worship, we are just ascribing to the Lord the glory due to His name.

(Ps 29:1-2)  “Ascribe to the LORD, O sons of the mighty, Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength. {2} Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to His name; Worship the LORD in holy array.”

(Ps 103:2)  “Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,”

04 Why We Worship

We worship God because He is worthy to be worshiped. The first reason He is worthy is because He created all things; He is the Creator who created all things for His glory. The second reason was that the Lord purchased us with His own precious blood. The third reason that He is worthy is also found in Revelation 5:8-10. The Lamb of God was slain on our behalf. In John 1:29, John the Baptist declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Jesus was the Passover Lamb that was sacrificed to take away our sins. The Lamb of God that was slain is worthy of our worship because He took away our sins.

When we enter into praise and worship, tell the Lord, “I worship You, the Lamb of God, because You were sacrificed to take away me sins. I am forgiven and stand before You, a Holy God, because You took away me sins.”

(Rev 5:8-10)  “When He had taken the book, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each one holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. {9} And they sang a new song, saying, “Worthy are You to take the book and to break its seals; for You were slain, and purchased for God with Your blood men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. {10} You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to our God; and they will reign upon the earth.”