“Come and talk with me.”

These two things are essential to our hope — God’s presence in our lives and His hearing our prayers. Without those realities, what hope is there in this world? What hope is there for you and me? I see none — apart from Him.

On those days when you wonder if God hears the cry of your heart, sit down and read His words — I’ve listed many of the Scriptures below. You will hear His reassurance.

My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “LORD, I am coming.”
(Psalm 27:8)

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Psalm Prayer:

I am praying to you  because I know you will answer, O God.
Bend down and listen as I pray.
(Psalm 17:6) 

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More assurance that God hears our prayers:
Deuteronomy 4:7; 1 Chronicles 5:20; Psalm 17:6; Psalm 34:4-6, 17-18; Psalm 50:15; Psalm 55:16, 17, 22; Psalm 65:5; Psalm 69:32-33; Psalm 86:1, 8-10; Psalm 107; Psalm 116:1-2; Psalm 138:3; Psalm 145:18-19; Proverbs 15:29; Isaiah 41:17; Jeremiah 29:13; Micah 7:7; Matthew 7:7-8; Matthew 18:19; Matthew 21:21-22; Mark 11:22-25; Luke 18:7; John 14:12-14; John 15:23-24; Romans 8:26-28; Romans 10:11-13; 1 Thessalonians 5:17; Hebrews 4:15-16; James 5:16; 1 John 5:14-15

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, and Lana Turner for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

What difference does Jesus make in your praying?

Why did the disciples of Jesus ask Him to teach them to pray? No, that’s not a trick question. Think about it a minute. Their religion had all kinds of prayers; their Temple rituals and their history were filled with prayers. Why would they be asking Jesus to teach them?

We find in Luke 11:1 that their request comes after Jesus had been “in a certain place praying.” He finished, and His friends made their request. There must have been something so powerful, so new and unknown to them in His prayers that they wanted it themselves. “Teach us to do that.” I think it’s interesting that the walkers on the Emmaus road didn’t recognize Jesus until He prayed before supper. Obviously, Jesus knew and practiced something about prayer that the disciples had not seen before.

What difference does Jesus make for us in our prayers?

Think about these three passages:

So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most (Hebrews 4:16).

“You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:13-14).

And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will (Romans 8:26-27).

Wow. Amazing words from our Father.

Those are probably all familiar verses; you may have read and heard them hundreds of times. And sometimes when passages are so familiar, we tend to skim through them without letting their power capture us.

So today, let’s look at this from a different angle. Let’s ponder what it would be like without Jesus and His Spirit.

What if Jesus had never torn away the curtain between us and God? What if we still could not approach the throne of mercy and grace and help?

What if Jesus’ name simply didn’t exist? What if the power of living in Him and Him living in us was never a possibility?

What if His Spirit was not here to help us? What if we had to grope about ourselves, blindly, knowing nothing beyond our human level of understanding and resources — trying to find ways and words to approach the Almighty God and understand what He wants of us?

What if … Jesus the Rescuer had never come? Not to earth, 2000 years ago. Not to your life today. Not to mine.

All of our hope today is built on Jesus the Christ. Without Him, there are no bridges to carry us forward. As He said long ago and He still tells us today, He is the Way.

 

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Psalm Prayer:

I am praying to you  because I know you will answer, O God.
Bend down and listen as I pray.
(Psalm 17:6) 

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, and Lana Turner for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

He bends down to listen to those who believe persistently

If I wrote a letter to Santa Claus asking him for my cottage by the sea in Maine and sent it off every year for the next twenty years, you’d begin to think I’m crazy. Or at least, pretty eccentric. Because I don’t believe in that legenday figure. What would be the point of a letter?

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him (Hebrews 11:6).

Do you believe God exists?

Do you believe He is who He says He is?

Do you believe that He will do what He says He will do?

Those aren’t rhetorical questions; let’s avoid the trap of rhetorical answers and ask ourselves, honestly —

Do we really believe?

I grew up in the church. In all of my memory, I was taught to say that Jesus is alive. I remember the day, though, when the realization hit me—I follow a man who died 2000 years ago and now claims to be alive. Really? Yes, I decided, I really do believe that. Coming to that conclusion changed my faith.

We all need to decide: Do we believe God exists and that His words are truth?

If so, everything changes, and we have incredible promises concerning our prayers to our God.

From Jesus, God in human skin:

* Keep asking and knocking, and the door will open and you’ll receive. (Matthew 7:7-8)

* If two or more of you agree on anything and ask for it, the Father will do it for you. (Matthew 18:19)

* You can pray for anything, and you’ll receive it. You can do more amazing miracles than Jesus did. You can move mountains into the sea, if you believe you can! (Matthew 21:21-22)

What do we do with those promises from Jesus? Do we try to explain the radical statements by watering them down, saying, “Well, Jesus didn’t mean that literally …” or, “Of course He doesn’t expect us to …”

I’m not at a place where I believe my faith can move mountains. My faith must be a smaller speck than a mustard seed. Yet I believe His words are truth.

For children of the Almighty, I believe the possibilities are endless.

I believe that if we knew, if we knew what the power of Christ could do in our lives, none of us would be going along in the same old routines and the same old habits of thinking.

I believe all of this is truth— I am just not yet hurling mountains here and there.

I can only pray, Spirit, help my unbelief.

And I believe in that prayer. It’s become as important to me as “Be merciful to me, a sinner” and “Lord, my times are in your hands.” And so I continue knocking, asking, seeking.

Jesus told a story about a widow who kept petitioning a judge because she wanted him to hear her case. Finally, he gave her what she wanted. This isn’t to say that God ignores us or is reluctant to answer. The point of the story, Luke tells us, was to show that we should “always pray and never give up.” (Luke 18:1).

I don’t intend to give up asking for more than a mustard seed. I believe we grow into our faith and wherever we are now on the pilgrimage, when we put ourselves in the hands of a living God, He hears our prayers. I may not “yet” be hurling mountains, but who knows what lies ahead?

I believe, Father. Help me where I still have unbelief.

 

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Psalm Prayer:

I am praying to you  because I know you will answer, O God.
Bend down and listen as I pray.
(Psalm 17:6) 

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, and Lana Turner for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

He bends down to listen to those who seek wholeheartedly

The Lord… delights in the prayers of the upright.
(Proverbs 15:8)

Well, yes, I do include myself in the category of “upright.” Not because I’m so perfect. Not because I’m even close to being spotless and blameless. Standing on my own merit, I’ll never win the badge of UPRIGHT. But since Jesus stands for me, and since all the things in me that were obstacles between God and me have been blotted out of God’s sight, then yes, I’m in that upright category. So are you, child of God.

He delights in our prayers. Doesn’t that, in turn, give you a delight in your relationship with your Father?

I think the Father’s delight is related to another lesson of Hezekiah’s: The record in Chronicles notes that this king “sought his God wholeheartedly” (1 Chronicles 31:21).

Wholeheartedly. What does that word mean to you? What does it look like in your life if you are seeking God wholeheartedly?

I’m thinking of the scene Jesus described of two people in the Temple. One, an arrogant Pharisee whose prayer extolled his own “righteousness.” The other, a “despised tax collector” who “stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed (Luke 18:13).” You know his prayer, offered in sorrow and humility. The second man is the one who sought God wholeheartedly.

Then there’s the conversation between Jesus and the woman of Samaria, also someone the Jews would not approve of. Jesus talks to her about God’s desire that His people worship Him “in truth.”

And I found one more interesting word from Jesus: “Don’t babble on and on in your prayers,” He said. “Just get to the point. God knows what you need even before you get the words out” (see Matthew 6:7-8).

In all of these, I hear Jesus say, “Do away with pretension. Come to God exactly as you are. Be truthful with Him. Bare your soul.”

Think about your earthly friendships. The strongest, most intimate, and most satisfying are those you enter into wholeheartedly—in exactly the ways God wants us to relate to Him.

Why pretend, anyway? God knows exactly who I am. He knew exactly who Hezekiah was, too. And lest you think Hezekiah was perfect, he was not. At one point in his life he was getting proud and boastful, and his loving Father saw that some discipline was necessary for Hezekiah’s own good. The king saw that he’d been going down the wrong path, and he turned around.

When we come to the Father open, honest, and humble and offer ourselves—all of ourselves, including our weaknesses, warts, and sins—then He not only hears but also delights in our prayers!

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Psalm Prayer:

I am praying to you  because I know you will answer, O God.
Bend down and listen as I pray.
(Psalm 17:6) 

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, and Lana Turner for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

He bends down to listen to those who call for help

Everything had been going so well. The new, young king (he was only 25 when he took the throne) had turned the country around. He’d rebuilt and reinforced the capital city’s infrastructure, led in a thorough religious reform, and earned new respect from neighboring countries. His people trusted him and enjoyed peace and ever-growing prosperity. The country had not had a leader like this for a very long time. Things were going very well indeed.

Then came the letter. From the neighborhood bully.

The king of Assyria, you see, was not happy with King Hezekiah of Jerusalem. Assyria was the powerhouse at that time; they’d swept through all the countries of the region, destroying and conquering. The country to the north of Hezekiah’s kingdom, for example, had been devastated and many people were taken as captives, sent to live elsewhere. When Hezekiah became king, his own country was paying heavy tributes to Assyria, just to keep peace. Hezekiah had revolted against that and refused to pay.

First came threats, delivered in person by the Assyrian king’s chief of staff: “You’re going to pay, and your people will suffer like never before. You’ll all be so hungry that you’ll eat your own dung and drink your own urine.”

Then came the letter:

Who do you think you are? What are you trusting in to save you from my power? Don’t be foolish. Look around you. Look what we’ve done to every other country that’s resisted us. None of their gods could save them. What makes you think you’ll be any different? Don’t be fooled by your God, who you say you can trust. He can’t save you either.  I’ll smash you. See you soon.

Hezekiah read the letter. Then he took it to the Temple and laid it out before the Lord and prayed.

You alone are God of all the kingdoms of the earth.
Bend down, O Lord, and listen!
It’s true, Lord, that Assyria has destroyed all these other nations.
But rescue us from their power!
Then everyone will know that you, alone, are God!

I wonder what would happen if we would use Hezekiah’s model for our prayers when we need God’s help—spreading out, either literally or figuratively, our crisis in front of Him. A pile of bills, a difficult relationship, tensions at work, a health problem, thwarted dreams. Whatever it is today that seems impossible — Can we just lay those things before the Lord and pray this prayer?

Whether the call for help concerns riots destroying a city or my writer’s block just hours before a deadline, prayers that:
acknowledge God as Almighty,
ask for His help,
admit the hard facts of the situation but trust in His power,
and give Him the ultimate and complete credit —
these prayers are always heard.

The rest of the story: Yes, the Almighty heard Hezekiah’s prayer. The king of Assyria never entered Jerusalem, never shot one arrow at the city. And, in the end, he who had boasted of his own power was assassinated by his sons—in a pagan temple, while he worshipped his own god.
(You can read it all in 2 Kings 18-19.)

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Psalm Prayer:

I am praying to you  because I know you will answer, O God.
Bend down and listen as I pray.
(Psalm 17:6) 

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, and Lana Turner for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)