Most of us have probably heard the classic song playing during this holiday season, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year.” Yet for many, this isn’t the reality. The normal holiday blues are present but this year with the shutdowns, isolation, and uncertain futures it is a challenge. Depression, frustration, worry, and anxiety seem to abound. Consider something James said in the Bible.
I must admit I hardly like to read James 1:2-3 let alone live it. I often tell people I probably have a Ph.D. in worry and anxiety. While we all face depression, worry, and anxiety at times, and some are more prone to it than others, they don’t have to control us. The most important way we battle and overcome is through our ongoing walk/communication with God. Depression, Worry, and Anxiety are signals that alert us that it is time to draw near to Him.
Abiding is about an Essential Relationship
We are called to “abide in Christ” (John 15:1-6). In the same passage about abiding Jesus tells us why, “Apart from Me, you can do nothing.” His word also says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Spiritually speaking abiding means He is our essential relationship. Abiding is more than simply seeking Him for a specific thing. It is an all of life, all the time thing.
This abiding relationship with Jesus works much like the story of a loving, wise, and successful father who was sending his son to college. He promised to support him financially with a monthly allowance. He also wanted to support him in other essential ways. Instead of sending the money every month, he made the son come home to get the allowance. Why, because the father wanted to encourage him, give advice and direction, check how he was doing, warn him of potential problems, and help him every way he could. This is much like how abiding in Christ works.
We all face circumstances and emotions in our lives that keep us dependent on Him. One of my spiritual fathers used to say, “It is good to have trouble, it keeps our face towards God.” I did not like that saying then, and I often don’t like it now, but it is true.
If lives were always blues skies with no opposition, we probably would not draw near to God much. Yes, there are bad things, but they can be turned into good things as they keep us walking closely with God in prayer.
Prayer fulfills two vital functions that we often forget in our relationship with God.
Prayer is not a religious duty. It is an important part of our relationship with God. In any relationship, whether it is between husband and wife, parents and children, or between friends, there has to be communication. Without it, a relationship will soon wither. The two people need to share their desires and frustrations and find the answers together. It is the same with our relationship with God. How can we really love Him unless we share our heart with Him, and how can we begin to think like Him unless we ask Him what He thinks about the situations we face each day.
2. A REALIGNMENT IN HIS PURPOSE
We have been brought into a relationship with God as fellow family members. God has called us to participate as sons and daughters who are heirs in His purposes. Through prayer, we are reminded and join with Him in His purposes and have the thrill of seeing Him work. As we communicate with God we realize afresh that we are sons and daughters of God (Galatians 4:6), heirs of His throne (Romans 8:15-17; Galatians 4:7), brought into right-standing with Him (1 Corinthians 1:30), we can come before His throne without fear or condemnation (Ephesians 3:12) and we have been given His powerful name to use in any situation. ”You may ask me for anything IN MY NAME, and I will do it” John 14: 14.
Don’t say God isn’t revealing Himself or speaking to you if your prayer closet is empty and your Bible is closed.
THE GREAT EXCHANGE
As we abide in Him with prayer, we receive the great exchange: HIS PURPOSE FOR OUR CONFUSION, HIS STRENGTH FOR OUR WEAKNESS, HIS VICTORY FOR OUR DEFEAT, HIS JOY FOR OUR DEPRESSION, AND HIS HOPE FOR OUR CYNICISM.
Important Tips for Abiding with Him
It is good to have a regular time. As with anything else, it is better to set a consistent time every day and get into a habit. In doing so we fit our lives around prayer rather than trying to fit prayer into our lives. If we simply try to fit prayer into our lives it will be inconsistent. The Bible puts a premium on Morning Prayer. It is the first fruit time in which we are the clearest before the day begins.
Use real language remembering it isn’t our religious eloquence that counts. Prayer is above all communication with God. Jesus always seemed to frown on religious language but wanted real communication from our hearts (Matthew 6:5-9).
Find a private place where you can be alone and undistracted with God. This is what Jesus met by the prayer closet. He said it is the “secret place” before the Father who “sees in secret” (Matthew 6:5-9).
Thanksgiving praise and worship are essential to entering God’s presence and staying alert there. These things work to draw us to God and keep us alert in His presence.
Lifting your voice (shouting) is a good way to create alertness and focus. Lifting our voice or shouting is by far the most common expression of praise, and interacting with God in the Scripture. It is used 265 times. This brings our foggy mind to a sense of focus and alertness.
It is good to alternate praying in the Spirit (praying in tongues) with praying in your understanding. This helps cultivate a Spiritual atmosphere and engages us with the Spirit of God.
Use Scriptural prayers as a pattern and example. I have all the prayers of the Bible recorded on my computer and I regularly pull them up and pray them. It is part of Jesus’ instruction about His word abiding in us as we pray in John 15. You can reference the New Testament prayers by seeing them at the end of the following document download here.
The biggest thing is to just do it. Prayer is not just a good intention or a good concept. It is a practice. The only way to develop a consistent prayer life is to consistently pray.
Let’s put these things into practice. We can abide in Christ, overcome the things that challenge us, and experience the abundant life Jesus provides.