Wisdom walk through Proverbs

Today is the last day of preparation for the 50-state prayer project, If We Will – Then He Will. In December, participants read through the book of Proverbs in search of wisdom. Today, the first day of the New Year, we seek God’s guidance for the next 50 days of prayer.

Lord, if I’m going to be a prayer warrior, make me a wise prayer warrior. I seek your wisdom and guidance as I pray for my country.

Knowledge and wisdom

Father, you are the source of wisdom and understanding. Write your word on my heart. I want to hear your voice. I want to follow you. Teach me your ways. Show me your paths.

I confess that I get distressed about the state of this world and I worry about the future. Help me to not be anxious about anything but to put my trust in you. No matter what happens in the coming days and years, I take refuge in you. May your will be done here on earth as it is in heaven.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
    but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (1:7)

For the Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. (2:6)

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
    and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways submit to him,
    and he will make your paths straight (3:5-6)

Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
    but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. (19:21)

Every word of God is flawless;
    he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. (30:5)

Fearing the Lord and hating evil

Lord, I hate arrogance, corruption, deception, meanness and greed. Lead me away from the snares of the wicked and deliver me from evil.

Do not set foot on the path of the wicked
    or walk in the way of evildoers. (4:14)

To fear the Lord is to hate evil;
    I hate pride and arrogance,
    evil behavior and perverse speech. (8:13)

The wise fear the Lord and shun evil,
    but a fool is hotheaded and yet feels secure. (14:16)

In the paths of the wicked are snares and pitfalls,
    but those who would preserve their life stay far from them. (22:5)

Envy of the wicked

Father, sometimes I fret when people seem to get away with evil. I know that they will not escape your justice. They have no hope. When I am tempted to envy them, remind me that my treasure is in heaven.

Do not let your heart envy sinners,
    but always be zealous for the fear of the Lord. (23:17)

Do not envy the wicked,
    do not desire their company;
for their hearts plot violence,
    and their lips talk about making trouble. (24:1-2)

Do not fret because of evildoers
    or be envious of the wicked,
for the evildoer has no future hope,
    and the lamp of the wicked will be snuffed out. (24:19-20)

Evildoers do not understand what is right,
    but those who seek the Lord understand it fully. (28:5)

Testing the heart

Lord, test my heart and show me the offensive ways you find in me. Father, I am your child and I submit myself to your discipline. Help me to be honest about my own sins and to have pure motives, to focus on the log in my own eye and not on the speck in my brother’s eye.

Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge,
    but whoever hates correction is stupid. (12:1)

All a person’s ways seem pure to them,
    but motives are weighed by the Lord. (16:2)

A rebuke impresses a discerning person
    more than a hundred lashes a fool. (17:10)

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold,
    but the Lord tests the heart. (17:3)

Lying lips and foolish tongues

Lord, help me to be trustworthy and to testify to your truth. The tongue is small but it can do so much damage, as I know too well. Help me to watch my tongue. May the words of my mouth be pleasing to you.

The Lord detests lying lips,
    but he delights in people who are trustworthy. (12:22)

Sin is not ended by multiplying words,
    but the prudent hold their tongues. (10:19)

A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride,
    but the lips of the wise protect them. (14:3)

Humility

Lord, I fall so short of your glory. Too often, I fail to be the loving person you want me to be. There is so much that I do not know. Help me to be humble.

When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
    but with humility comes wisdom. (11:2)

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (16:18)

Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life. (22:4)

Justice and mercy

Lord, I know what it is to be poor and I am thankful for those who had mercy on me. Whatever I do for the poor, I do for you, our Maker. Help me to act justly and to love mercy.

Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord,
    and he will reward them for what they have done. (19:17)

Whoever shuts their ears to the cry of the poor
    will also cry out and not be answered. (21:13)

The righteous care about justice for the poor,
    but the wicked have no such concern. (29:7)

Watch your temper

Father, forgive me for the times I have lost my temper. I know there is danger in anger. Help me to be calm, forgiving, and patient with others. Where there is discord, may I sow peace

Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person,
    do not associate with one easily angered,
or you may learn their ways
    and get yourself ensnared. (22:24-24)

Fools give full vent to their rage,
    but the wise bring calm in the end. (29:11)

An angry person stirs up conflict,
    and a hot-tempered person commits many sins. (29:22)

Lord Jesus, my heart belongs to you. Guard my heart and help me to love others as you love me. As water reflects the face, may my life reflect your heart. May I reflect your love in all I say and do.

Above all else, guard your heart,
    for everything you do flows from it. (4:23)

As water reflects the face,
    so one’s life reflects the heart. (27:19)

The 50 State Prayer Project

Like millions of other Americans, I have been praying for my country as its citizens become more and more divided. This month, a member of my small group told the rest of us about a call for intercessory prayer. She handed out several copies of the accompanying booklet, If We Will…Then He Will: A 50 State Prayer Project. The project began on the first of December with a 31-day preparation period including daily readings from the book of Proverbs. January 1, 2022 will be a day of prayer and fasting, followed by 50 days of prayer and readings from the book of Psalms.

The inspiration for the project is II Chronicles 7:14. After Solomon dedicated the temple, God appeared to him and made a conditional promise.

[I]f my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

II Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)

The people behind the 50-state prayer project have taken God’s promise to Solomon as God’s promise to Christians. God’s plans for the people of the United States may be quite different than God’s plans for the people of Israel. Nevertheless, God promised to hear His people and followers of Christ are His people.

God’s promise to Solomon lists the conditions required to fulfill this promise: humility, prayer, seeking the Lord, repentance. As we prepare our hearts to pray for our country, we must humble ourselves, seek Him, search our own hearts and repent from the sins that separate us from Him.

In addition to II Chronicles 7:14, several days of preparation were spent reflecting on Ephesians 6:10-17:

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

As Christians come to the Lord to pray for the souls of America, we should prepare for a spiritual battle with the full armor of God: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, shoes fitted with the gospel of peace, the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation.

When I think about the struggles of our country, it is easy to focus my ire on people who stir up trouble, people who spread lies, people who defame others. But Paul reminds me that the real battle isn’t against flesh and blood; it is against the spiritual forces of evil. Satan wants people to be divided. He is the father of lies.

I have been praying for my country since deep divisions became evident during the Obama administration. I don’t pray as consistently and fervently as I should. Praying with others across the country will add some needed discipline to my prayers.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

James 5:16 (NIV)

Lord, thank you for the wonderful gift of Jesus Christ, my savior. Thank you for the body of believers who have been called to pray. I pray that you will heal this land, a country that desperately needs You. As I prepare to pray with other believers, I pray that You will search my heart and reveal my sins. Help me to stay humble and to keep my eyes on You. I pray for wisdom and discernment. Help me to see others with grace-filled eyes.

If we will… then He will

Shamelessly Audacious

When he sees me writing, my husband often asks: ‘Are you writing about me’? My answer is always ‘No’ but today the answer would have been ‘Yes, I am.’ I am writing about him because a sermon on Luke 11 reminded me to be persistent in my prayers for him. And not just persistent. My pastor used the words shamelessly audacious.

Which of you has a friend and shall go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine on his journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not trouble me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give you anything’?

Luke 11:5-7

The friend may not give him anything just because he is a friend but because of his impudence he will rise up and give him whatever he needs.

An image that comes to my mind when I hear ‘persistent’ is a toddler tugging on his mother’s shirt, trying to get her attention. She does her best to ignore him but he keeps on tugging. With each pull he says, ‘pay attention to me. I want something. I’m going to keep tugging until you look down and listen to me.’

Father, I know that it is shamelessly audacious of me to come to you again and again asking you to save my husband. I have no right to ask you to redeem him. I knowingly married a non-believer. We are unequally yoked. You knew the path I would take in life before I took my first steps. You know my heart and you know his. You know why he resists. You know how to get through to him. Don’t let me be a stumbling block before him. Show him that he needs You. I ask because you love me and I know you love him too. Save my husband.

So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

Luke 11:9-10 (NIV)

A Prayer for a Forgiving, Compassionate Heart

This is the ninth of ten strategic prayers I am writing in response to Priscilla Shirer’s book, Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer. Shirer wrote that if she were Satan, she would make sure that you keep thinking about old wounds and the people and circumstances that caused them to “ensure that your heart was hardened with anger and bitterness. Shackled through unforgiveness.” If you have ever harbored feelings of anger, bitterness, and resentment towards another person, you know the damage it does to you and to your relationship with the offender.

Strategy 9 – Against Your Heart

He uses every opportunity to keep old wounds fresh in mind, knowing that anger and hurt and bitterness and unforgiveness will continue to roll the damage forward (Hebrews 12:15).

PRISCILLA SHIRER

I have experienced the bondage of unforgiveness. For years, I resented my mother for cheating on my father and trying to turn us kids against him, for making me and my sisters buy groceries with food stamps under the condemning eyes of adult shoppers, for leaving me, at seventeen, in charge of four younger siblings while she stayed all night with her boyfriend. When Mom almost died, I finally found the grace to forgive her, to let go of these old wounds. I thank God that I had the chance to forgive her. I miss my mother, the wounded, flawed woman who taught me to have compassion for others, and regret not having had more compassion for her.

Forgiveness for the Offender (2 Corinthians 2:5-8, NIV)

If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. 

Today, my mind is not tormented with thoughts of personal hurts and grievances. But I do grieve at what has happened in my country and I struggle with feelings of anger, resentment, and bitterness at the people I blame for it.

*******

Heavenly Father, before I bring my need, I bring my heart. Thank you for forgiving my sins. I confess that I do not forgive others as easily. I need more of Your grace and kindness.

Lord, I am troubled by the divisions in my country. The lies and conspiracy theories that fueled an assault on democracy make me angry. I am angry at the people who silently accepted, condoned, and promoted the lies.

Lord, I am struggling to understand and to forgive the people, including friends and family, who put a wicked man in power and voted to keep him there. It’s tempting to paint them with a broad brush but I know that his supporters are not all alike. Some of them claimed that You put him in power even though they chose to mark his name on their ballots. Some of them chose him because of the single issue of abortion or because he promised to stand up for Christians. Some of them chose him because they are Christian Nationalists and think that Republicans can “take back” America for You. Some of them chose him because they are xenophobic and he promised to build a wall to keep Mexicans out. His most radical and fervent supporters adore a wicked man because they are wicked, as we saw so clearly on January 6th.

Lord, I especially feel betrayed by fellow Christians who were willing to trade Christian values for political power. They were willing to accept racism and to tolerate dishonesty and vile, vengeful, divisive language in exchange for the Republican agenda. Of course, they have not betrayed me personally but their hypocrisy severely damages the witness of the Church.

Jesus, I need more of your compassion. Even as you faced death for testifying to the truth, you prayed for your enemies: ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ Help me to have compassion for the people who see but do not perceive, who hear but do not understand.

Father, You are good to the ungrateful and the wicked. You cause the sun to shine on the evil and the good and send rain on the righteous and unrighteous. Help me to love my enemies, the enemies of truth. Help me to be good to them with no expectation of receiving anything back.

Lord, as I struggle to forgive those who have aligned themselves with wicked men, help me to remember that my struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the powers of this world’s darkness and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. The secret power of lawlessness is at work, deluding those who delight in wickedness.

Father, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love, where there is injury, pardon. For it is in pardoning, that I am pardoned.

Amen

*******

Photo by Daniel Mingook Kim on Unsplash

Matthew 5:44-45

Mark 4:12

Ephesians 6:12

2 Thessalonians 2

A Prayer for Inner Purity

I committed myself to writing a prayer in response to each of the spiritual challenges that Priscilla Shirer listed in Fervent: A Woman’s Battle Plan for Serious, Specific, and Strategic Prayer. I considered skipping a prayer on purity because at this stage of my life, the issues Shirer mentioned aren’t my issues – the moral compromise, the unhealthy habit, the enticing addiction, the allure toward sexual impurity. Still, I found myself reflecting on the impacts of sexual impurity on my extended family and myself and I found myself praying Psalm 51:10.

Strategy 7 – Against Your Purity

He tries to tempt you toward certain sins, convincing you than you can tolerate them without risking consequence, knowing they’ll only wedge distance between you and God (Isaiah 59:1-2)

PRISCILLA SHIRER

As Priscilla wrote, giving into temptation is never harmless. “The waves of your choice will ripple outward into your heart, mind, soul, and body, possibly even to future generations.” I’ve witnessed the consequences of sexual impurity in my own family. A marriage shattered by infidelity. Children growing up without a father. A mother making choices without considering the impact her decisions will have on her children. Teenage pregnancies and marriages doomed to failure. Broken families. Broken hearts.

Yes, the impacts of our choices go beyond our bodies. When I was a young woman, I succumbed to temptations of the flesh. I engaged in mental gymnastics and tried to justify my sin, even trying to bargain with God. My disobedience wedged a distance between us. My Father’s face was hidden from me. When I prayed, it felt like He did not hear me.

Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.

Isaiah 59:1-2 (NIV)

Now that I am older and wiser, my temptations are the temptations of a wayward heart. I know that some of my thoughts and feelings are not compatible with a heart that belongs to God. Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.

Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

2 Timothy 2:22

****

Heavenly Father,

Before I bring my need, I bring a grateful and contrite heart. Thank you for watching over me and protecting me when I was young and foolish. Thank you for being the God of second chances! You are a God of mercy and I love you with all my heart.

Lord Jesus, you have shown me the blessing of a pure heart. Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God. I want to be more like you. You taught me that a good person produces good out of the treasure of her heart. When I say something that is unkind, when I am impatient with others, when I judge others, I am not being the person you have called me to be.

Father, may the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to you. Let no unwholesome talk come out of my mouth but only what helps to build others up. May my words benefit anyone who listens.

Father, rid me of all bitterness, rage, and anger. When my thoughts turn dark, may I think instead about whatever is good, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – about anything that is excellent and praiseworthy!

Father, thank you for forgiving my sins. I am clean because of the words you have spoken through my Savior. Savior, I pray that your words remain in me so that I remain in you and bear good fruit. Cultivate in me the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, so that I always keep in step with the Spirit.

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Lord, create in me pure motives, pure desires, pure thoughts. Lord, I want to store so much of your goodness in my heart that it overflows and pushes out all impurities. May I be kind and compassionate, forgiving others just as you forgave me. May I love others as you love me, even those who are hard to love.

Here’s my heart, oh take and seal it. Seal it for Thy courts above

Amen

***

Psalm 19:14

Psalm 51:10, 17

Matthew 5:8

Luke 6:45

John 15:3-4

Philippians 4:8

Galatians 5:22

Ephesians 4:29-32

Photo by kazuend on Unsplash