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Prayer family matters



'Pray much for others; plead for God's mercy upon them; give thanks for all he is going to do for them.' 1 Timothy 2:1 GWT

We all have different experiences of family. But, the apostle Paul urges us to pray for everyone - and this includes our parents.

Here's what we can pray: 'God, thank you for my parents. Thank you for placing me in this family. Thank you for their provision, and for the things they have taught me. Please give them your wisdom and help them make godly decisions. Show them your purpose for their lives and give them the courage to step into it. Thank you for loving them. Please help them feel your peace, joy and love today. Where they have made mistakes, I pray you would show them how to live differently. And when those mistakes have hurt me, please help me to work through the process of forgiveness. Please bless them. In Jesus' name. Amen.'

If we do struggle with our relationship with our parents, this can be a challenging prayer to pray. But whatever has happened, praying blessing and God's leading over them can pave the way for us to be set free from any pain and heartache we feel. And praying doesn't mean we necessarily trust the person again, or put ourselves in situations where we could get hurt - in fact, it actually provides godly protection over the situation.

If we don't feel like we can pray for our parents today, let's pray blessing for those who have encouraged and supported us through our lives so far - other family members, leaders, teachers and friends.

So what now? If you feel comfortable doing so, pray the prayer in today's reading. Family does matter to God.

Soulfood: Rev 1-4, Mark 14:43-52, Ps 1, Pro 13:1

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Prayer claim God's promises



'He will call on me, and I will answer him' Psalm 91:15 NIV

Sometimes we may avoid taking our issues to God in prayer because they seem too big or too small. But 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV) tells us to, 'Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you'. God says, 'He will call on me, and I will answer him' (Psalm 91:15 NIV). It won't always be the answer we expect or want, but it will be the best answer for us.

Whatever the issue, we can speak out God's promises in the Bible in our prayers. For example, we can speak out the promise that God 'will answer us' - we can even thank him in advance for the answer he will give. We can speak out his promises to provide for our needs (see Matthew 6:25-34), to give us strength when we're weak (see Isaiah 40:28-31), to show us his steadfast, unchanging love for us (see Romans 8:35-39). Every time we speak these promises out, we're increasing our faith and expectation that God will move.

As God's children, we can come close to him because of what Jesus has done for us. Hebrews 4:15-16 (CEV) says: Jesus understands every weakness of ours... So whenever we are in need, we should come bravely before the throne of our merciful God. There we will be treated with undeserved kindness, and we will find help' - it's a promise from God himself.

So what now? God is interested in you. Hand each worry over to him, no matter how overwhelming or trivial they seem - he promises to help with them all.

Soulfood: 1 Kings 21-22, Mark 14:27-42, Ps 129, Pro 12:27-28

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Prayer be yourself



'So I fell down and lay face down before the Lord.' Deuteronomy 9:25 AMP

We can sometimes wonder what the 'right way' to connect with God is. When we were younger, we may have been taught to put our hands together and close our eyes. The Bible talks of people praying whilst standing, kneeling, lying on the ground, sitting, stretching out their hands, lifting their faces toward the sky or bowing them toward the earth.

There's no right or wrong style; we need to find the method (or methods) that works best for us. Some people pray better when they're in a quiet spot, or walking, driving or running. We're free to use our body and posture to help us turn our mind and heart towards God. When we're acknowledging our sins, we may find it helpful to kneel and bow our heads - to help us experience the humility of the moment. In worship, we may want to turn our faces upwards. When asking for guidance, we may find it helpful to turn our palms upwards, as if expressing, 'Lord, whatever you want'. When praying for someone else in public, we may want to look at the person while we're talking to God. When we're thanking God, we could put on worship music.

Ultimately, it's not about how we pray, it's about the position of our heart. We should approach God with joy, excitement and simplicity, in a way that's natural, spontaneous and comfortable for us.

So what now? Think about how you best connect with God (is it through music, art, nature?), and then do it. You are free to be yourself!

Soulfood: 1 Kings 18:16 - 20:43, Mark 14:12-26, Ps 124, Pro 12:26

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Prayer spread it out



'Hezekiah received the letter...and spread it out.' Isaiah 37:14 ESV

Hezekiah, king of Israel, received a threatening letter from a much more powerful king - the king of Assyria. The Assyrian ruler threatened unconditional surrender or destruction, and told Hezekiah not to trust in God. The letter was pretty graphic (see 2 Kings 18:27). If we received a letter like that, we might become fearful and give in or we might be frustrated and retaliate.

But King Hezekiah went straight to the temple 'and spread [the letter] out before the Lord' (Isaiah 37:14 ESV). Then he prayed: 'God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made Heaven and earth. Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see' (Isaiah 37:16-17 NIV). Hezekiah was basically saying, 'Lord, please would you read this, then do something about it'. And God did. 'Then the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning - there were all the dead bodies' (Isaiah 37:36 NIV)!

We all have challenging things we need to 'spread out' before God - relationship issues, health problems, financial worries. If something is important to us, it's important to him. Whatever is causing stress or pain in our lives, let's entrust it to God, and watch him put those things 'to death' before us.

So what now? What is causing you stress? Take time to completely spread it out before God, giving it to him to deal with, and watch what he does.

Soulfood: 1 Kings 16:1 - 18:15, Mark 14:1-11, Ps 4, Pro 12:25

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Prayer Holy Spirit focus



'The Spirit prays for God's people.' Romans 8:27 CEV

Sometimes when we pray, we can easily be distracted. Someone might interrupt us and need our attention. Our thoughts might wander; we may find we're thinking about something completely different and forget we were praying in the first place. We might be tempted to check a notification that pops up on our phones rather than carry on in prayer.

We're not alone. Even Jesus' disciples had trouble staying focused in prayer time! When Jesus went to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, he asked the disciples to keep watch but they fell asleep. So Jesus said: '"Couldn't you men keep watch with me for one hour?" he asked Peter. "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak"' (Matthew 26:40-41 NIV). But when he returned, they had fallen asleep again.

The Bible tells us that the Holy Spirit is praying on our behalf: 'The Spirit is here to help us. For example, when we don't know what to pray for, the Spirit prays for us in ways that cannot be put into words. All of our thoughts are known to God. He can understand what is in the mind of the Spirit, as the Spirit prays for God's people' (Romans 8:26-27 CEV). When we pray, let's ask the Spirit to help us stay on track.

So what now? Don't beat yourself up if you are easily distracted when praying; it happens to many people. Work out what distracts you and ask the Holy Spirit to help you focus.

Soulfood: 1 Kings 14-15, Mark 13:24-37, Ps 121, Pro 12:23-24

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Prayer make it simple and honest



'When you pray, don't be like those show-offs.' Matthew 6:5 CEV

Jesus said the Pharisees turned prayer into a theatrical production. Author John Ortberg points out five things about their prayers: '(1) Their prayers had become a shallow exercise rather than a deep relationship-building one. (2) They were rituals, rather than authentic expressions of a loving heart. (3) They were long and wordy, designed to impress others. (4) They were filled with meaningless clich?s. (5) They became a cause for pride rather than an opportunity to express humble reliance on God.'

When it comes to prayer, Jesus said: 'But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you. When you pray, don't babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again. Don't be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him (Matthew 6:6-8 NLT).

We can pray anywhere, at any time: in our cars, in the bathroom, lying in bed, while we're exercising or at work. God wants our prayer times to be spontaneous, personal and honest. We shouldn't be praying because we think we have to or because we think it will impress other people around us. Prayer should be something that we long to do so that we grow in our relationship with God. He wants us to pray from our hearts.

So what now? Take the advice in Matthew 6:6-8. Find a quiet place and just come before God, simply and honestly.

Soulfood: 1 Kings 12-13, Mark 13:12-23, Ps 117, Pro 12:20-22

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Share Jesus with them



'Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.' John 4:14 NIV

One day Jesus spoke with a woman at the well. She was a Samaritan plus she had been divorced five times. In those days, Jesus shouldn't have associated with her. Even the disciples were confused; the Bible tells us they 'were surprised to find him talking with a woman' (John 4:27 NIV)? One of the many stand out characteristics of Jesus is that he associated with people who society avoided or rejected. Jesus went into her world to bring her into his. He mixed with her to reach, redeem and restore her. That's why he's called 'a friend of tax collectors and sinners' (Matthew 11:19 NIV).

Jesus also spoke to her in a way she would understand. She was at the well to collect water, so he explained that he could provide 'living water'. When we're talking to others about Jesus, let's use language they'll understand. The 'Christian words' we use in church might not make sense to people who haven't been to church or don't know Jesus.

All people need Jesus, and we can be part of introducing them to him. That can be scary. We might worry that they're not reachable or that they'll reject us. But Jesus is with us, giving us the words to say, and the courage to step out to point people towards his 'living water'.

So what now? Who can you share your faith with today? Ask God for the opportunity and courage to tell them about him, in a way that they will understand.

Soulfood: John 7:37-41, Exo 17:1-7, Isa 35:1-7

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