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Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.
MATTHEW 22:37 NLT
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You can’t give away what you don’t have. There was a reason Jesus started with “love God” before he got to “love your neighbor.”
Jesus wants to walk with you in an intimate, moment-by-moment, relationship. He bought you back, redeeming your life so you could be a friend of the Father. If you could grasp the depth of God’s love, the width of his forgiveness, and the good thoughts he has for you—you would be blown away!
Our hearts can’t comprehend the truth that we are the beloved of God or, as the psalmist says, “the apple of his eye.” He chose us even while we were in sin, and Jesus endured unspeakable suffering to save us. Jesus has forgiveness for our sin and grace for our shame.
God is for you not against you. His thoughts toward you are always loving and kind. Even if there is discipline and correction in your future, it is out of love and to free you from the bondage of sin. It is for freedom you are set free.
Now that is good news!
Praying the Scriptures
If you haven’t explored the way God loves, spend the next month or so in the Scriptures, deepening your understanding of who God is and what God does. Then let that growing knowledge fuel your love for God. As I dig into the Word, I often pray, “God, I want to know you better and love you more.”
Take time daily in God’s Word, the Bible. I read slowly and often spend time reviewing verses or paragraphs multiple times. This is a great way to start your day. Usually, I sit quietly in a listening posture, sometimes closing my eyes to block out anything that would interfere. Then I roll the Scripture through my mind, slowing taking in its truth and praying that God would integrate it into my soul.
I often journal about how a particular Bible passage relates to my life, considering not only what it says to me but also what I should do with it. I invite the Holy Spirit to enter into this exercise to lead me. Daily I ask the Lord to cleanse me and to filter out anything selfish or sinful.
One of my favorite ways to use Scripture is to pray it back to God, inserting my life and its situations into the verses. This feels like I’m talking to God with divinely inspired direction.
Most mornings I listen to a worship song or two on YouTube and sing along. Praise is a great response to the challenges of my day. When I express dependence toward God, hope fills my heart. I often sense the Spirit is near, filling my soul with love. These times in the morning give me a kingdom perspective for the rest of my day.
We take time daily to fill our bodies with food. Shouldn’t we daily feed our soul?
This Is How to Pray
Check out how Jesus taught his disciples to pray in what we call “The Lord’s Prayer.” Pray like this:
Our Father in heaven,
may your name be kept holy.
May your Kingdom come soon.
May your will be done on earth,
as it is in heaven.
Give us today the food we need,
and forgive us our sins,
as we have forgiven those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation,
but rescue us from the evil one.
MATTHEW 6:9-13 NLT
This prayer is intended as a guide for us. Jesus started with praise and moved to a kingdom focus. He prayed for daily needs. He reminds us to pray for cleansing and right standing with God and others. He finishes by praying for victory.
Think about your prayers. Are they well rounded? Do they follow this pattern? Do you make room for praise daily? Is there a kingdom focus or do you only ask for your needs to be met? Do you pray for victory over temptation and rescue from sin?
What if you set out to pray like Jesus? Would you set aside time to pray for the kingdom? If so, for what or whom would you pray?
Why not start with your part of the mission? In what ways could you be a partner with Jesus in seeing the kingdom come to your neighborhood? Where is he already at work?
Pray for Your Neighbors by Name
Years ago, Chris Cooper, the founder of blesseveryhome.com, encouraged me to pray for my neighbors by name and to become a light to my neighborhood. I took his challenge to heart and God took me up on my prayers.
I’m a diehard Kansas University Jayhawk basketball fan. And I noticed a guy who lived just two houses away who often wore a KU sweatshirt. His name was Keven. We became friends, often talking about our team, in each other’s driveway.
Well, for various reasons our family unplugged from cable. That made it difficult for me to keep up with the KU games. When I shared my lament with Keven, he invited me to watch the games at his house. I was glad to accept his invitation.
So when KU played its in-state rival, the Kansas State Wildcats, I was watching the game with Keven in his downstairs den. We talked basketball, but also chatted about our families and our jobs. We had a great time. It was even better when Kansas was leading at halftime.
While we grabbed some snacks and drinks, the conversation went deeper. Keven had a relative who talked about his faith. Know- ing I was a pastor, Keven wanted to check those statements with me. I didn’t want to get in the middle of his family’s business, so I asked a different question: Do you want to know what the Bible says about the way back to God?
“Sure do,” he said.
I started by honestly admitting that I’d wondered about these things for some time. I have peace in my heart today, but only after searching out truth. I was willing to share my story if he was interested.
I shared about the love that Jesus had for him. I told him about the need for Jesus to pay for the sin of this crazy, mixed-up world in which we live. I shared the story of Easter and the resurrection of Jesus.
I told Keven I was living with faith and confidence today not because of what I’ve done but because of what Jesus did for me. I explained how I received God’s forgiveness and the grace in which I now live.
I didn’t go fast. I made room for questions. I was a friend telling another friend where to find an oasis of peace and purpose for living. I relaxed, believing this conversation would go wherever Keven and the Spirit wanted. I didn’t have a personal agenda, nor did I feel like I had to lead him to a salvation prayer. I was willing to take one step at a time.
He kept asking good questions. I could tell he was interested. I asked him if it made sense to him. I asked him if this kind of faith was something he wanted. He said he did.
He said he believed in Jesus. I asked if he was willing to ask Jesus to lead his life and forgive his sins and he said yes.
We prayed in his basement that day and Keven accepted the grace of God. And all of this happened before halftime. I don’t remember who won the basketball game, but I know Kevin’s life changed for eternity.
I love the way God restores and redeems.
As it turns out, his wife had been praying for him and sharing her faith with him for some time. All of that came to fruition in that basement TV room. I just happened to be there at the right time.
Pray for your neighbors by name daily and watch God go to work! When our prayers intertwine with our caring and sharing, God sets divine appointments. So don’t be afraid to invite people to Jesus. God may have created that opportunity for you.