persistence (4)



Prayerfully Memorizing Scripture


There is a sense in which the most important part of a tree is its root system. The stability and nourishment of a tree come from its roots. And, of course, the roots grow more slowly than the branches. So it is with our spiritual lives.

For this reason and others, I recommend Scripture memory as a discipline of prayer. It is not impossible to prayerfully memorize an entire chapter each week. The main issue is slowing down to memorize, allowing God to nourish your soul. Here is the process.

Read a verse over until you can say it. Then go to the next verse. When you have it down, go back to the first and read them together. Then memorize the next. When you have it memorized, go over all three together. Continue this process until you come to a good stopping place. If you divide a chapter into seven segments, you can memorize it in a week. The next day you will have to re-memorize these verses before you start on a new passage. You will soon find this rearranging your entire schedule. And you and God may be pleased with the outcome.

Time spent in prayerful review is the key to memorizing. In reviewing Scriptures I have already memorized, I inevitably misquote some of the verses. I try to resist quickly correcting myself and going on. I often go over the verse several times until I get it right. I use this same process to review each chapter for two weeks. That means I am always reviewing two chapters while memorizing another. I am aware that this will require a significant amount of time. And the current quarantine may be the perfect time to embark on this project.

You will find that such scripture memory produces fervent prayer. I didn't realize this until I started memorizing in this way. Three kinds of prayer come automatically in this process.

  1. I have to ask God to help me slow down and concentrate to fix the words in my mind. “Lord, help me memorize this verse!”
  2. “Lord, plant your word in my heart and transform my life.” The goal of my Scripture memory is for God to transform my mind, making me more like Jesus. It is mainly in the process of reviewing passages that God takes me deeper spiritually.
  3. While I am memorizing and reviewing, God brings people and needs to mind. And He gives me unusual faith as I take time to pray for them while I am deep in His word.

Even though it is automatic, such praying will also have to be intentional. You do not want to become so preoccupied with memorizing that you forget to pray. Scripture memory requires commitment. You will sometimes have to work at it when you are exhausted. You may have to pick up again after being too busy for a day or a week. You may want to set long term goals like memorizing the Psalms in six months, or committing the Gospels, an Epistle, or the entire New Testament to memory. Right now I memorize two chapters from the New Testament, then one from the Old Testament before returning to the New. All the time I work at this, I pray for God to work in my life. While God often uses memorized verses to minister to others, calling Scriptures to mind at crucial times, that is not not my main purpose in this. I do it for God to plant Himself in me.

This method is not “the law of the Meads and the Persians.” I encourage you to adjust this as God leads you. However, I do warn you against trying to shorten the time you spend doing it. God will bless every moment you spend in His word and prayer.


Your most powerful praying may come through the word of God.



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Some time ago, I heard someone describe a deeply painful personal situation. He shared his story in matter-of-fact tones, describing what was, what is, and, what in his mind, always will be. Day after painful day, nothing changed. Experts had weighed in: improvement is out of the question; to hope for it is a set-up for disappointment. It will never get better, it will always be like this. So in his discouraged thinking, coping and surviving are the best he can hope for.

My heart has ached since hearing him tell his story.  I hurt for him because I know that “always” and “never” are not part of God’s vocabulary. God has good plans for this person—that’s a fact. He is not excluded from the abundant life Jesus came to bring. But in his discouragement, he can’t see it or even hope for it. Which certainly puts a damper on prayer.

I don’t fault him, though. I’ve been there. I remember a season when I also was in an impossible-seeming situation that caused me persistent, unrelenting, unbroken pain. “It won’t always be like this,” a well-meaning friend said, trying to encourage me. “Yeah, I know, “I replied gloomily. “ It’s going to get worse.” I utterly believed that.

Truthfully, in many ways, it did get worse before it got better. But when I was in that pit, I wasn’t able to see that by God’s grace, it really would get better eventually. My painful season was not a permanent condition. God saw me and heard my cries and He delivered me.

God is a Rescuer, a Savior, a Redeemer, and a Helper. That’s His character—that’s who He is. He “is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him; it is good to wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord” (Lam. 3:25-26). In painful seasons, our “weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Ps. 30:5, NLT). It will not always be this way: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him’” (Lam. 3:22-24; see also 2 Cor. 4:17; Ps. 103:9, 126:5); Is. 12:1, 54:7-8; Hos. 6:2).

I’m not sure the person I told you about would be able to respond to a spiritual pep talk. Sometimes trying to pump up another person’s faith does more harm than good, so I’m not going to try it. But when I was in a similar dark place, I appreciated the prayers of others who could lend me some of their faith (see my blog from last week, “Brother, Can You Spare Some Faith?”). They prayed with hope that I didn’t have and that comforted me. So that’s what I’m doing for this person. I know that because of God, his situation is not impossible. It does not have to always be this way. So I’m praying for him, asking first for God to give him hope, and then, also, to bring the rescue he so desperately needs.

It’s always encouraging to hear others’ stories of God’s rescues. Do you have an impossible-always-never story you can share?


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Marks of a True Intercessor

I don't know about you, but I'm on a quest to become a more self-less pray-er, so I have been looking for something that would be sort of an "Intercessory Prayer for Dummies." My search led me to one of the Classic Christian authors on Prayer, Andrew Murray, and to his book, "The Ministry of Intercession".

Not everyone as we know, is into prayer, much less Intercessory Prayer. I've been asking myself why some are such strong and persistent prayer warriors while others are not. Andrew Murray's book shed some light on this for me the other day. In one chapter, he is extracting "the marks of an Intercessor" from Jesus' teaching on prayer in Luke 11.

He says, "...the marks of the true intercessors as the parable taught us" are:

1) A sense of the need of souls

2) A consciousness of personal impotence

3) Faith in the power of prayer

4) Courage to persevere inspite of refusal

5) The assurance of abundant reward

When I evaluate these marks in my own life, I see myself lacking, especially when it comes to "courage to persevere inspite of refusal". I'm persistent all right, but not necessarily in prayer. I guess I wonder if persistence is a matter of continuing to to ask for something to happen, how many times do you ask? I do not see God as being forgetful so I wonder why persistence is needed. Could it be that the persistence has to do with the process of refining our requests or growing our faith?

As I was finishing this chapter, I was struck by the following quote, "Shall men of the world sacrifice ease and pleasure in their pursuits, and shall we be such cowards and sluggards as not to fight our way through to the place where we can find liberty for the captive and salvation for the perishing?" Perhaps the answer to my question regarding persistence is here.

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Waving the Wrong White Flag

"Prayer is our most formidable weapon, the thing which makes all else we do efficient." - E.M. Bounds

I've been reading a booklet titled, Praying Effectively for the Lost, by Lee E. Thomas.  The author packs many foundational biblical truths, plus personal and powerful stories of persevering prayer, into what he's written.
One of the many points he touches upon is the matter of the Church, and the Christians who make up the Church, giving up too easily in prayer.  It's as though we are often quick to wave the white flag of surrender when we fail to see immediate results to our prayers when we pray.
Yet, in addition to surrendering too quickly, could we also be waving the wrong white flag in surrender?

Instead of surrendering our ability to pray because our expectations aren't fully met in the moment (or in the way(s) we expect them to be fulfilled), shouldn't we surrender ourselves, and continually do so, to God?

Do We Think We'll Really be Satisfied with Instant Potatoes All of the Time?


Our American culture can get us into trouble when we yield too much to its influence.  Our microwaved instant meals save us time, but sacrifice our health and nutrition.  We have the ability to "just add water" to powdered potatoes or other dried foods to create a "meal" out of something rather unappealing when we first open the box and look into it.  But should we expect to live off of that kind of meal consistently?
There's no comparison when we taste the "instant" meal alongside of a meal of substance.  The substantive meal, made with real fruits, grains, vegetables, and meats, will always taste better, be more appealing to the eye, and provide better health in both the short and long terms.
So it is with prayer and God. 
Whether God seems to instantly answer the prayer we've asked, or He answers it in what appears to be a delayed or prolonged manner, doesn't change who He is in the slightest degree!  It also doesn't change the power or effectiveness God has placed within prayer or within our ability to pray!
A.W. Tozer, poignantly brought this problem into focus:
"What comes to our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us."

"The words, "Be still, and know that I am God," mean next to nothing to the self-confident, bustling, worshiper in this middle period of the twentieth century (our modern day)."  (paraphrase added)

"The low view of God entertained almost universally among Christians is the cause of a hundred lesser evils everywhere among us."
"Were we able to extract from any man a complete answer to the question, "What comes into your mind when you think about God?" we might predict with certainty the spiritual future of that man." - the above quotes gleaned from Tozer's book, The Knowledge of the Holy, preface and pg. 1.
God is not a formula; a boxed "just add water" god (like other gods).  He is all-mighty (meaning that all power as we know it- and even beyond what we know, comes from and is within Him).  He is perfect (in every way we can imagine, plus immeasurably more)!  He is sovereign, meaning that He does as He pleases, whenever He pleases, as it brings Him good pleasure.  He is perfectly wise.  He sees our current joys, trials, and challenges in light of everything He's done prior, everything He's currently doing, and everything He will do in the future.  In His wisdom, He has prepared all that we need for salvation, all we need in our present lives, and all we'll need throughout eternal life.  He is Redeemer.  Only God sent His perfect Son to be the perfect sacrifice to satisfy the perfect wrath and justice He requires as judgment for man's sin and rebellion.  And additional truths of the person and character of God could be written about from now throughout eternity.  He's that enormous, mighty, loving, encompassing, and more!
God is so complete and powerful, why shouldn't we continually surrender our lives, thoughts, words, and actions to Him?  Why would or should we ever surrender our ability to pray?  He's provided the means (prayer) for us to both communicate to Him and hear from Him.  Prayer is a two-lane highway of communication! 

Why would we ever want to quit?
Surrender to God the matters that bring you joy (giving thanks in and through prayer).  Worship Him (praise Him through word and deed as a prayerful act of surrender and worship).  Surrender in prayer those things that trouble you (requests and concerns), and more.

Persisting in Prayer for the Lost
Lee E. Thomas (mentioned above) writes, "Through the many vivid word pictures in the Bible concerning the plight of the lost, we can easily see why persistence in prayer becomes a necessary factor.  Isaiah 14:17 describes the lost as being prisoners whom Satan refuses to release.  Acts 26:18 tells us that they are under the authority or jurisdiction of Satan.
Persistent prayer is necessary because of Satan's reluctance to give the lost person up, not because God is unwilling to save them!!!
One of Satan's favorite tactics is to make the situation look so impossible that we get discouraged and quit praying.  The reason he does this is that he has absolutely no defense against prayer.  The old saying is true that Satan trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees.  All prayer is warfare and, when you pray, Satan is being defeated even though you see no change in the circumstances.

However, if we could see what is happening in the spiritual realm when we pray, we would be greatly encouraged.  So, keep on praying for the lost whether you see results or not because your prayers are being answered!!" (emphasis added)
Be encouraged, and continually persist in prayer (in all ways)!
Matters to Continually Take Before God
Here is a short, incomplete, list of matters to continually keep before God in prayer:
*  The deepening and growth of your relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
*  God filling you with His Holy Spirit.
*  Your appetite and ability to read, take to heart, and apply the Word of God.
*  The salvation of lost friends, relatives, acquaintances, and beyond (specifically name those you know, then persistently do so until He leads them to faith). 

*  Revival (when Christians, and the Church, become saturated with God).

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