sovereign

I write this post from a desk in my bedroom at home. I’m at home because our family is in covid quarantine this week. 22 months after the Covid-19 pandemic interrupted all our lives, our family has its first positive case. We were away for a few days celebrating our oldest son’s birthday when our youngest began with a sore throat, fever, and other cold-like symptoms. We came back to town, got him to a doctor, and our youngest tested positive for Covid-19. At this point, we are all presumed covid positive even though the symptoms shown by the rest of us have been relatively mild. Nevertheless, your prayers for our family this week would be appreciated.

This quarantine is an interruption into our lives. Our celebration trip was interrupted. Our regular schedule was interrupted. Our family interactions and things we can do for the next several days have been interrupted.

Inconvenient.

That’s what I’ve been thinking. I don’t have time for this. There are sermons to preach, classes to teach, people to interact with. Our Associate Pastor, Tad Craig, preached a great message on Sunday January 9, about doubt and the need for community. And now I’ll be away from in person interactions with my church community for at least this week. And that’s just me. Our boys won’t be in school, and my wife has had her work week affected this week as well. This covid quarantine is quite inconvenient.

But even so, it might just be a divinely appointed interruption. I hold a high view of God. He is absolutely sovereign. He is great. He is good and full of mercy, grace, and love in his interactions with people. So this interruption in our lives is not isolated from God’s control. Rather, it is a part of his handiwork.

The Bible testifies of divine interruptions in people’s lives.

  • God interrupted Noah’s life to have him build the ark.
  • God interrupted Abraham’s life to send him to the Promised Land.
  • God interrupted Job’s life by allowing him to suffer immensely to show Job that God alone is sovereign.
  • God interrupted David’s life of shepherding to become a warrior and then a king.
  • God interrupted the disciples’ lives by calling them to follow Jesus.
  • God interrupted Saul’s life on the road to Damascus by calling him to be the apostle to the Gentiles.
  • God interrupted Peter’s prayer life to send him to a Gentile family whom he would have presumed unclean unless God intervened.

I don’t share this list to somehow conflate my family’s covid interruption with this list of biblical interruptions. In the examples above God moved forward his divine purposes in the world. While we are not these characters in the Bible, and our stories are not their stories, interruptions in our daily life can be opportunities for God to intervene in our spiritual lives.

A proper view of God’s sovereign glory and greatness in the lives of his people requires that we not perceive interruptions as anything less than an opportunity to see God more clearly and follow Jesus more closely.

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Romans 8:28-30

I like to quote Romans 8:28 above, and I believe that this interruption in the life of my family is something that God will work for good. But keep reading. The good that God wants to do in my life (in our lives) is to conform us into the image of his Son. God is working out the daily events of my life (our lives) to make us more like Jesus.

Here ares some things I’m praying during this time of quarantine. I would be honored if you’d join me in these prayers.

  • Father, would you show me whatever needs to be removed from my life to make me more like you? Would you help me to be quick to confess and repent of any sins that are an encumbrance to my spiritual life?
  • Father, would you grant our family grace and patience with one another during this quarantine? I know for a fact that I’m at times very impatient. This is an opportunity for God to bear the fruit of his Spirit in my life. Particularly, God is working to form “patience” and “self-control” in my life.
  • Father, would you help and heal our family and the many others who are more sick than we are? One of the things that has caused so much fear with Covid-19 is the apparent randomness of how it has affected people. We all know that people with underlying conditions have been affected significantly. Some of you reading this have been very sick and some have lost loved ones due to Covid-19. But others have been very sick with no apparent underlying connection. As we are praying for healing and health, we’re also praying for others connected to our congregation who are more sick than we are.
  • Father, would you help this time of family quarantine to be more than inconvenient, but to be a time of divinely appointed interruption for your work in our lives? Regardless of what our circumstances in life bring, God wants to make us more like him. This could be a prayer that we all pray about any of the circumstances we face.

May we learn to see interruptions as opportunities for Divine intervention.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Our culture preaches a narrative that we are able, capable, and only limited by the imagination of our minds. We don’t have to listen too closely to the voices around us to notice the overt emphasis on self-help and human capability.

But we are more like the dependent child depicted in the prayer image than we are capable adults in control of all our circumstances and situations.

There are times in each of our lives where we realize how insignificant and weak we really are. A cancer diagnosis. Unexpected death of a loved one. Job loss. Pandemic. Work stress. Family illness. Natural disasters. Spiritual death.

If we are honest with ourselves, many things in our lives are outside our control and influence. This sense of personal helplessness is a prime opportunity to find ourselves anchored to God through prayer. This will be the fourth and final anchored post, and it culminates the underlying themes of the previous posts: Anchored in the Word, Anchored in the Gospel, and Anchored in the Church.

Why pray? Our sense of helplessness and inability is a key factor in our willingness to pray. When we are overwhelmed, uncertain, stressed, unable, or facing lack, through prayer we can find ourselves anchored to God who is in control, certain, able, and owns everything.

Prayer is a conversation. Throughout Scripture God invites his people to pray. Think about that. God wants you to bring your requests, burdens, and circumstances to him.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

If you are anything like me, you need God’s peace. So, if you are in need of God’s peace and interventions, then read on and learn some of the ways that prayer can anchor your faith.

When we pray, we are acknowledging God’s sovereignty and ability to intervene. There is nothing in this post more important than this truth. Praying reflects dependence on God. When we admit we are unable or that we lack, prayer and faith find their grounding in our spiritual lives. God is able to do far more than we can ask or imagine (Eph. 3:20). So when we pray, we can express our faith in God alone. It is from this place of dependence that God intervenes and answers,.

When we pray, we are trusting God’s wisdom. There are many things that I’ve prayed about and asked God for that I have not received. We must remember God is not a genie in a bottle. Our prayers are not wishes he is obliged to grant. Rather, God is all-knowing and all-wise. We should bring our burdens and requests to him. He is able to meet every one of them. But since he is Sovereign and in control, he knows best how to answer. We need to trust his wisdom. Remember, even Jesus requested that the Father remove the cup of the cross from him (Matt. 26:39), but submitted to the Father’s will.

When we pray, we are talking to our Father. God designed prayer to be more than a ritual or an event in a worship service. God granted us prayer as a glorious privilege. It is a conversation. Jesus teaches us to call God, Father (Matt. 6:9). Our Father in heaven knows what is best and cares to hear us and spend time with us. Prayer is a relational conversation between you and your Father who loved you enough to send Jesus to die for your privilege of prayer. This alone should motivate us to pray.

If prayer anchors our spiritual lives, then should we pray at set times or for extended periods of time like Jesus (Luke 6:12)? Should we pray for hours at a time like the spiritual giants of old (Martin Luther, Hudson Taylor, and others)? Should we whisper prayers through the day never ceasing our conversation with God (1 Thess. 5:17)? Should we fast when we pray (Matt. 6:9-18)?

Yes.

Yes. To all of the above and to many more questions we could ask about our manner and pattern of praying. Whether you pray in the morning during your quiet times, at night before bed, throughout the day in whispers, or in groups and services at church, prayer is a privilege that we should take advantage of more often than we do.

Here are a few guiding reminders that will strengthen our prayer lives:

  • Pray Scripture. One way you can be assured that you are praying what God wants is to pray phrases and sentences that God has already spoken. After all his thoughts and ways are not our own (Isaiah 55:8). My daily Bible readings often provide the content for how I talk to God. I find myself thanking God for his interventions as detailed in Scripture and bringing requests to God that connect to his work in the past. A helpful resource on this topic is Donald Whitney’s book, Praying the Bible.
  • Pray the gospel. What do I mean by this? Well the gospel teaches that we are spiritually bankrupt (Matt. 5:3) and in need of spiritual life (Eph. 2:1-10). Our need for Christ doesn’t change when we receive salvation. We do not need to be saved again, but the pattern of humility and dependence that characterized our entrance into salvation should continue to permeate our spiritual lives. When we remind ourselves in prayer of our need, our desperation, our dependence, we move to an attitude of humility, surrender, and faith that God hears. Praying gospel truths also reminds us that we can approach the Father because of the sacrifice of Christ.
  • Pray with others. Jesus taught us to pray “Our Father.” Prayer is a community privilege (Acts 4:23-31). While we cannot pray about everything on our prayer lists with everyone in the church, we can pray together with families, group members (Sunday school and discipleship groups), and close friends. Sharing prayer requests, praying together, and reflecting on answers to prayer will deepen prayer in our lives. Here’s one example. In our family devotions, we have often prayed for the sick and for protection. We also pray for the salvation of friends. Each time God strengthens, heals, and saves, we make time to thank God and praise him for answered prayer. This practice strengthens our faith.

Have you prayed today? I don’t ask to make you feel guilty if you haven’t. I ask to remind you that you can.

If you have a prayer request, I would be honored to join you in praying about it. Feel free to share in the comment section below, and I’ll pray with you about it today. If God has recently answered a prayer you’ve been praying, I would love for you to share that in the comment section as well. God’s answer to your prayer could encourage someone else!