“For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.”
–Ephesians 6:12 (NLT)
If you like a great bargain and you have not tried searching in thrift stores, you are in for a treat. You may think these stores are full of nothing but dog-eared books and dusty old knicknacks that nobody wants, but I can tell you from experience that there are some great deals to be had.
Sometimes you can find something that’s almost brand new which sells for a fraction of the retail cost. I once bought a very nice briefcase and recliner for a grand total of less than $25, and that’s only naming two deals I’ve found.
Besides all the treasures you can buy for a pittance in thrift stores, there is also an excellent chance of acquiring some fantastic white-elephant gifts. Remember all those decorations and books I mentioned earlier? If you’re willing to do some searching around on the shelves, and you inspect each item for any cracks or flaws, you can find some interesting gift ideas. Goodwill sometimes acquires neat music boxes, which my wife Stephanie enjoys collecting. A thrift store may also be the temporary home of some pretty weird items that would fit in perfectly at a gag gift exchange. You may think nobody could possibly want a stuffed witch’s cauldron with 2 frogs inside, or a pair of earrings that feature a small but functional fork and spoon, but who knows? You just might be surprised.
Prayer is an amazing gift from God, but many people treat it like a white elephant gift, or an antique cast-off that nobody wants. These people will only pray when they have done everything they can to control the situation first. Unfortunately, these people are making a conscious decision not to yield to God, or let Him order each step of their lives.
This idea usually sounds archaic to them, because many of us in the twenty-first century consult Google more than God. The idea of listening to His voice has become much too foreign, and we may struggle with this concept.
So, you may ask, what did Jesus mean when He told us that His sheep know His voice? Since attempting to focus on and listen to God is foundational to prayer, let’s examine both what hearing God’s voice means, and what it doesn’t mean.
First, hearing God’s voice is not necessarily some kind of mystical encounter, such as a vision or a dream. God’s voice often comes to us in the form of His Word, the Bible.
God does sometimes speak to us in extraordinary ways, but these episodes are very few and far between, and they should be regarded with caution. Someone may come up to you with a supposed word from the Lord, but God may not have spoken to them at all. Therefore, we are commanded by scripture not to take these utterances at face value. Instead, we need to respect and obey what God says in His Word.
The Bible states that many people speak from their own imaginations, and that many false prophets will arise. Furthermore, scripture describes well-meaning people like Nathan, who hastily told David to do everything that was in his heart concerning the temple. Nathan later repented, but there is a serious penalty for those who don’t confess their sins. We may also be guilty through ignorance of His Word.
Placing all of our cares and concerns into the hands of a loving God in prayer is only the first step. We often stop at this point, because lack of preparation impedes our ability to hear God’s voice after we have done this.
Just as you would take care to listen to a special friend in a two-way conversation, the King of the universe has chosen to give you and me an audience. We need to prepare our attitudes concerning prayer, and looking at our prayers from God’s perspective can help us do this. This may sound very challenging to you, but this experience can change us from the inside out, lifting us to new heights.
Secondly, we must learn to start each day with some quiet time before God. These intimate moments with our Creator will help us face all the hectic noise and constant pressure of our modern world, as we seek direction from Him.
We can see this quiet intimacy in many places in scripture, but I will emphasize two such times here. First, the Psalmist speaks of the night watches as a time of communion with God. Secondly, we see how the Lord Jesus would often set aside time for fervent prayer. So the idea is not so much when you pray, but where you pray and how much you commune with God during your quiet time together.
But, you may ask, if God knows everything anyway, then why pray? While there are many reasons to pray, here are two that you might want to ponder.
Heartfelt prayer does much more than sustaining us in tough times. It also offers strength, which helps us to face the future. Remember when David ran from King Saul? Many of the beautiful Psalms which he wrote are designed to acknowledge His dependence upon God.
Besides helping us get through our troubles, prayer has the awesome ability to change our hearts. We see this truth portrayed when David said that the Lord will give us our heart’s desires if we choose to delight in Him. Worshipful and thankful prayer is one way we delight or revel in God’s goodness, but since He knows what is best for us, God often uses prayer to change our hearts. Letting Him do this will ensure that He blesses you beyond all comprehension. Some of these blessings may be disguised, but you will recognize them for what they are sooner or later.
So why continue looking at prayer as a white elephant gift that you can discard at will, when the God of the universe is calling you to Himself in a new way? I pray that you will learn to see prayer as an exciting adventure, which can open up new vistas you never imagined. Coming boldly before His throne will enable you to identify with the One who has overcome all things in this world, and to move out in His love with renewed strength.
Thank you for reading this, and may the Lord give you a wonderful week! We are trying to reach people who are hurting, so if God lays it on your heart, please consider becoming a partner with us. If you would like to make a donation, please visit www.hcmachaplains.org and click on the Donate Now link. You can also send donations by mail to HCMA (Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association). Our ID number is 560. The address is 101 S Kraemer BLVD, Suite 123A, Placentia, CA 92870. Finally, you’re always welcome to join our Monday night Bible study or Tuesday night prayer meeting. Both are conducted by conference call, and they take place at 5:30 PM Arizona time. Our conference number is 712-775-7031, and our ID is 607518748. We hope to talk with you soon!
If you have questions, comments or prayer requests for Timothy or Stephanie Burdick, please call 507-369-6861.