Connection Initiative 2019

For the 21 Days of Prayer and Fasting, we are sharing a Bible plan that includes several passages about prayer. Spend alone time with God and let Him speak to your heart.


After reading the day's entry of the Bible plan and short devotional, continue scrolling to the blog where various leaders from FH are posting. 


january 21 // matthew 17:20-21

"prayer and fasting"

Fasting is a tough exercise, but it is an integral part of a Christian’s lifestyle. If Jesus found it essential to fast, then so much more for us. Fasting results in a complete cleansing of one’s life and ministry. It removes all the cobwebs and skeletons. Your life is highlighted, and you will be able to see how closely you walk with Jesus. Fasting gives you the opportunity to get back to God and enables you to see things with clarity.

PRAYER: God, please guide me as I make fasting part of my regular routine and speak to me in the silence. Amen.

january 21 // "good enough" v. great

AUTHOR:  randy wills

READING:  matthew 17:20-21

Matt. 17:21, KJV, Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

 

This scripture has taken me on a bit of a journey. I do most of my studying and reading of my Bible either on my computer, iPad, or my phone. Consequently, I have many study tools at my fingertips, which can lead to lots of rabbit trails if I’m not careful, but this one got me thinking.

 

I read it first in KJV, which is the version from which I remembered it throughout the years. I then went to the NIV, which doesn’t include that verse. The NASB is usually the closest to the original manuscripts, and it referred me to Mark 9:29, which is the same story but leaves out the word fasting. Mark 9:29, NASB:  He replied, ‘This kind can come out only by prayer.’”

 

What I have found out is that not all of the original manuscripts said the exact same thing. Somewhere somebody left out a word or added something. It really doesn’t matter in the context here because we know that some things only happen when prayer and/or fasting is involved.

 

I thought about this and wondered if fasting is really necessary (especially since I haven’t had anything sweet in nearly two weeks), or is just spending more time with God was good enough? Hmmm, how often do I do “good enough”? Prayer in and of itself is wonderful, but denying myself in order to be closer to God, making my flesh weaker by making it submit to some self-discipline, must be better. We keep alive what we feed, right?

 

I’ve always wondered why we try to stay as close to sin as we can and still go to heaven instead of staying as close to righteousness as we can to ensure that we’re in God’s will. 

 

What can I get away with and still make it to heaven? vs. What can I do to get closer to God?

 

Fasting is good. Praying is good. Putting them together may be great.

 

I’m committing to more prayer and denying myself some fleshly pleasures throughout 2019 and seeing what God will do. The thing is, I know He’ll make it great.

 

Pastor Randy

january 20 // 

mark 11:24; jeremiah 33:3

"jesus our healer"

PRAYER: Lord, help me to know Your will so I'm not praying without wisdom. I only want Your will done in my life. Show me what You want, and that will be my prayer. In Jesus' name, Amen.

january 20 // Name it and claim it

AUTHOR:  sheila wills

READING:  mark 11:24; jeremiah 33:3

I almost laughed when I read Mark 11:24 today. The teaching “name it/claim it” immediately sprang to my mind, sometimes known as the “prosperity” doctrine. That theme began in the 1950s, actually, but became super-popular when I was a young adult in the late 70s and 80s. I remember my dad teaching me, “There are a lot of doctrines people will teach, and most likely they’ll have a thread of truth in them, but be careful not to jump on band wagons and get distracted from the real reason we’re here.” I’ve never forgotten that counsel. In the church world, there are always people trying to emphasize their own agenda until the followers of those people end up in left field somewhere and have forgotten a simple truth: we’re commanded to follow Christ and bring as many along with us as possible.

 

I certainly don’t mean to oversimplify the Gospel; I do believe the Word is both simple and complex, but I’ve lived long enough now to see many different “winds of doctrine” blow through the Church and be sad at those that follow tangents. I guess that’s a reason why I maintain a tunnel-vision when it comes to what He’s called us to do. Everything, and I do believe everything, is to center around us loving God, loving others, and making the “others” disciples.

 

The second verse, Jeremiah 33:3, is like music to my soul. I mean, “great and unsearchable things you do not know”? How do I get to have that privilege? Oh yeah, call out to Him.

 

Anyone who knows me knows that I love education. I have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge.  I’m an avid reader—it’s my idea of a vacation. I remember when I was in high school, I would come home and open a book and begin reading until my mom would make me put it down to eat dinner, then I’d be back at it as soon as possible. I read classic after classic after classic. I still do, along with everything else I can called “Christian.”

 

Sooo…when I read “great and unsearchable things you do not know,” that lit a fire inside of me! I’ll call out to God, you bet I will, and He’ll teach me things I don’t know, which is a lot. I guess another way to say that is…Name: call out to God/Claim: teachings from God. hehe.

 

Sheila Wills

january 19 // 

john 14:13-14; Mark 7:27-30

"ask in faith"

God will give you anything that is within His will. When you say, “Lord, heal my body so that I can be a breadwinner for my family,” or, “Lord, save my prodigal son, bring him home to me,” those are the kind of things the Lord expects you to ask of Him. 

On one occasion, a woman asked Jesus to heal her daughter who was possessed by a demon. Jesus said to her, “Let the children be filled first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” She replied, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat from the children’s crumbs.” Jesus then said, “For this saying go your way; the demon has gone out of your daughter.” When she returned home, she found that her daughter was healed (see Mark 7:27-30). 

This woman was not even a "Christian," but she had faith. She asked God to do something for her. She persisted and He eventually agreed to heal her daughter. Why is it that we don’t ask God for things? The Lord wants to talk, and even ask.

PRAYER: Father God, You are a great and wonderful God. Thank You for supplying my needs. Thank You that You hear me. Amen.

january 19 // desperate

AUTHOR:  jack miller

READING:  john 14:13-14; mark 7:27-30

Mark 7:27-30 brought back a memory of when I was in Honduras on a trip with our Lead Pastor doing some team teaching through our sister church in Tegucigalpa.   We had the privilege to meet with some of the members in their homes.  Many of the homes had dirt floors and were no bigger than the living room of our current house at the time and yet their home also housed four children.  

 

Our interpreter spoke very good English and in some light conversation, I said something about, “In America…”. She responded, “Which America?” I had not really thought about there being a North America, Central America, or South America when I was speaking with her. 

 

By the end of the trip, I wondered, “Who is really better off? The North Americans or the Central Americans?”  We witnessed people pouring their hearts out to God in a way that would seem extreme, radical, and uncomfortable to most North Americans. We visited a Life Group one night amongst the poorest of the poor, yet the Holy Spirit’s presence was tangible, thick even, and despite their circumstances, they took up an offering. They were dependent and “desperate” for God. They also seemed very happy, might I even say, happier than most North Americans, in my opinion.

 

I also was desperate for God that week and for His leading. I felt that I was in over my head. And yes, He did meet my needs, and I saw Him move. Even to the point that part of me did not want to come home.

 

Jesus Christ recognizes and loves a desperate heart and a desperate need, whether Jew or Gentile, North American or Central American. We are all desperate for Him in one way or another.

 

Jack Miller

january 18 // acts 6:4

"start praying and see god move"

They say that James Hudson Taylor, the man who started the China Inland Mission, was not a great preacher. When he was home on furlough from China, he became well known. A journalist came to interview the Englishman who was shaking China, and attended a Bible study where Taylor was present. He did not impress the journalist. Disappointed, the journalist wondered how he was going to write an interesting article about Taylor and his work. 

Right at the end of the evening, the group began to pray. And that’s when the tide changed. The journalist reported that he had never in his life heard a man talking to God like Taylor did. He said that he then realized who this great giant of the Christian faith was: he was a man of prayer. Start praying, and you’ll see God move.

PRAYER: Almighty God, You have given me the wonderful gift of prayer. Help me to make prayer a way of life. I ask that You would work in my heart and life so that You might give me a passion and yearning for prayer. Amen.

january 18 // business meeting

AUTHOR:  brook binstock

READING:  acts 6:4

This is such a funny set of scriptures to me. It's all business. Things are working out the way they are going. We need to have people free to minister to the lost, but we also need people to look after the church and the needs that arise. So they appoint 7 men to look after the business while the others are free to "continue steadfastly in prayer and in the ministry of the Word."


To me, this is exactly what Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians 12. We are all part of the body, but we have different "jobs" to do. We are all gifted in different ways. Some are great with business and housekeeping things, others are great at speaking to groups of people, others at teaching, others at music, etc. 


There is a freedom in this, I believe. A freedom to find out what God has gifted you in, and most of the time it's not something you would even call a "gifting." And when you find it, do it with all your might. I have done many, many jobs around the church. Actually, I've probably most of them, except of course, shepherding the herd! There are times when we have to step in and meet the need, but in doing that, never lose sight of what God has truly gifted you in. And if you haven't found that yet, ask Him. He knows!


Oh, by the way, the "continue steadfastly in prayer," I believe that's for all of us!


Brook Binstock

january 17 // 

genesis 9:11

"a vibrant prayer life"

How do you pray, how long do you pray, and where do you pray? We need to lock ourselves in our prayer closet. Let’s take hold of the Lord, and not let go until He answers. When we pray an effective prayer, God can move.

PRAYER: Lord, I rejoice in You. Thank You for Your great love for me. I want to have a vibrant prayer life – I want to spend time in Your presence so that I can be close to You. I realize that nothing can take the place of spending time with You. Amen.

january 17 // HE HAS ME

AUTHOR:  SHEILA WILLS

READING:  genesis 9:11

God gave Noah a promise in the form of a beautiful rainbow. God promised that He would never again flood the earth, and He never has. That's usually what I get out of that verse. This time, though, I saw something different.


God said, "I establish my covenant with you." God Himself making a pact with Noah...so then I wondered about the covenant He made with me. When I accepted and believed in Jesus Christ, He gave me promises as well...one of them being that He HAS me. That's the #1 promise He gave to me. There are some days that just don't go so well, and I talk to a lot of people that are sad or disappointed or even fearful because of things happening in their lives. That promise is kind of my "go to": HE HAS ME. HE HAS YOU.


In the end, what more could I want? It causes me to remember to trust Him with my life, with everything. Thank You, Father, for making a covenant with me. Thank You for giving me confidence that You have me in the palm of Your hand. There's no other place I want to be. Not even for a minute.


Sheila Wills

january 16 // 

james 5:16-18; 1 kings 18:44

"be a prayer warrior"

James tells us: “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit” (James 5:17-18). If we follow Elijah’s example, our prayers will become effective. Then God will be able to use us. 

PRAYER: Lord God, I realize that I cannot have an effective prayer life if I do not spend time in Your presence. Help me to reprioritize my life so that I can spend quality time with You. Amen.

january 16 // the importance of prayer

AUTHOR:  kevin taylor

READING:  james 5:16-18; 1 kings 18:44

These verses in James challenge me more now than they have in the past. It is because I know the Lord has been calling me personally to get more serious in prayer. I must say that holding these verses up to contrast with my current life is convicting. But I must let the scripture bring life.

The “action” phrases stand out particularly. Phrases like “be healed,” “accomplish much,” and “the earth produced its fruit” are all effects of Elijah’s prayer. And according to these verses only from prayer.

What would have happened if he had not prayed? What is not happening because I am not praying? What fruit is not being produced because I am not praying for it?

God, help us to all renew our conviction of the importance and absolute necessity of prayer today!


Kevin Taylor

January 15 // John 9:31

"protected by prayer"

It is our habit on our farm to begin the day by singing Zulu hymns, reading God’s Holy Scripture, and praying. One day, after we did exactly that, my son sent some of the staff off in a truck to fetch some building poles from a nearby plantation. 

The driver, two teenage girls, and one helper were in the truck going down a steep hill when they lost control of the truck. It careered off the mountain and rolled. 

One of our young herdsmen came riding down on his bike weeping uncontrollably, just half an hour after the prayer meeting had concluded. He said, “There’s been a terrible accident. The truck has rolled.” He wasn’t sure if anyone had survived. 

Fearing for the lives of the occupants, my son and I jumped into another vehicle and drove straight to the scene. As we came down the hill, I started to pray to God, “Please, Lord.” The truck was at the bottom of the mountain, an absolute wreck. 

Miraculously, no one was killed. One of the young girls broke her arm, and the passenger sitting next to the driver had a slight back injury, from which he has completely recovered. The driver had a neck injury, from which he has also recovered. The second young girl didn’t have a scratch on her. 

The young herdsman who had reported the accident reminded me how earlier that morning we had spent time in prayer. He firmly believed that the Lord Jesus Christ protected all four of those people in the vehicle. Yes, indeed, we can never underestimate the power of prayer.

PRAYER: Jesus, make prayer my first line of defense. Amen.

january 15// is god hearing my prayers?

AUTHOR:  warren bowles

READING: john 9:31

Is God hearing my prayers? One obstacle, a two-step solution. 


First, I am a sinner--we all are--but how can I overcome that obstacle? When I confess my sins, believe in my heart that Christ is my Savior, repent of my sins, and choose to follow Him, I have eliminated that obstacle. I have become a believer. I am now a babe in Christ.


Second, I want to learn and grow in relationship with Him so I can know His will. That can only happen as I spend time in His Word, fellowship with fellow believers one on one, in small groups and in church. I need to hear the Word of God with an open mind and a hungry heart. I need to become a worshiper of God. Now I begin to understand His will, and the desire grows within me to do His will. I want to be obedient to what I understand to be the will of God, and that understanding will grow in direct proportion to my hunger and nourishment.

 

Gradually, I detect a difference in my prayer life. There is an increasing assurance that God is indeed hearing and answering my prayers. My understanding is growing, my prayer life is improving, and it is all because I chose to nurture a relationship with my Creator and Savior.


Warren Bowles

january 14 // 

james 5:16; matthew 9:27-30

"persist and pursue"

Here are two key ideas that are essential to getting anywhere worth going: persist and pursue. If we give up or keep changing direction, we never really get anywhere. Instead, let us persist in seeking God’s will and then pursue it with our whole heart. 

Think of the two blind men who wanted Jesus to heal them. They pursued Him, and when they caught up with Him, Jesus asked them, “Do you believe that I can?” Jesus prayed for them, and their eyes were opened. They went away rejoicing once their faith had made them well (Matt. 9:27–30). 

You can either believe that the Lord answers prayer, or you can say it is a coincidence. But as a Christian, you cannot continue to think it is coincidence for the rest of your life. We serve a mighty God who expects us to pursue and to persist in prayer. If you keep knocking on that door, it’s going to open. 

PRAYER: Dear Lord, when I become tired or complacent, help me to pursue You and persist in prayer. Amen.

january 14 // don't hide

AUTHOR:  guy drescher

READING: JAMES 5:16; MATTHEW 9:27-30  

"Confess your sins to one another."  


I have to admit that when I read that, my spine stiffens a little and my mouth tastes like aluminum foil. It just does not seem like a pleasant idea. I start to worry about what other people will think of me if they "really knew." The risks just seem too high. Then I start to justify, telling myself, "All you need is Christ." This is the power of shame. It keeps me disconnected. If I hide I cannot be loved.


Alternatively, sharing my brokenness with others allows my heart opportunity to experience healing grace. When I share authentically, I can be loved. It enlists others to pray beside me, to see my blind spots and speak truth. This feels like a warm embrace. I believe that Jesus paid my debt, but James is talking about healing from our brokenness, and that comes from connection.


Guy Drescher

january 13 // 

ephesians 3:14-15; james 5:16

"the power of prayer"

Are you concerned about your loved ones? Maybe you have some prodigal sons or daughters in the family who are living a wild life, and every time you try and talk to them, they don’t listen to you. What can you do? 

The Bible tells us that “the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). Talking can turn to nagging, but prayer is the way to true change. 

John Wesley’s mother prayed for her son every day. Many stories are told of praying moms...and dads...and grandmas...and brothers....and friends...

Start believing what God says about your loved ones, and not what other people say. Keep believing and praying, and God will answer your prayers.

PRAYER: Lord, when I’m frustrated about a loved one, remind me to come where the power is: to You in prayer. Amen.

january 13 // surrender

AUTHOR:  patrick maestas

READING:  EPHESIANS 3:14-15; JAMES 5:16

Imagine this with me for a moment. You’re standing on the edge of a diving board for the first time. There is a little hesitation and fear keeping you from jumping in. Will the water be cold? Will you belly-flop? Looking down from the height of the board, it’s hard to remember how much joy is awaiting you as you fall through open air with a rush of adrenaline, awaiting the water at any moment, your friends cheering you on from the sidelines. Finally, you jump. You regret nothing. You feel the refreshing water support you as you float up to the top. The fear is gone, replaced by joy. You come to the surface, feeling like a new person. You did it. You survived. And now you don’t feel held back by your fear.


I think this is how confession works. It’s scary for me to think about confessing my sins to my friends. It’s almost strange that God would ask us to do this because you’d think we only need to confess our sins to Him. God is safe. I know that. But my friends? How do I know for sure they won’t judge me? How do I know this will bring me healing, like the Word says? I guess I just have to jump and leave the fear of the unknown behind.


I think what the Ephesians and James verses have in common is surrender. It’s easy for me to imagine coming down on my knees before the Father. However, doing it physically takes surrender. It takes humility. And the same with confessing my sins to another person, but surrender brings healing as I realize that I can’t do it on my own. I need fellowship with others, and I need fellowship with God. It is then that I realize that we were not created to jump into the waters alone. We need the refreshing support of the Father to create a new person in us. We need people to cheer for us on the sidelines and jump in if we are having a hard time getting back to shore. The only thing I have to do is surrender.


Patrick Maestas

january 12 // 

james 5:17; james 4:2-3

"earnest prayer"

In today’s verse we read about Elijah, who prayed earnestly that it would not rain. Elijah wasn’t supernatural; he was an ordinary man who prayed that it would not rain, and it didn’t. He just prayed in faith. 

God answers fervent prayer offered in faith. Make sure your life is in order with God, seek His will, and thank Him in anticipation.

PRAYER: Lord, please strengthen my faith as I pray. I thank You ahead of time for answering this prayer! Amen.

january 12 // motives

AUTHOR:  sheila wills

READING:  james 5:17; james 4:2-3

Elijah’s prayer—wow, what faith he had! That guy—he asked some pretty outrageous things in his life; hence, miracles are reported. When I read this, followed by the next verses in today’s Bible plan, I saw the connection, but it just seemed so much larger than life…so I’ll comment a little on the James chapter four verses.

 

The part that says, “You do not have because you do not ask God” is one of my most-quoted verses! I think I ask a lot. Every day. Sometimes every hour. I always figure it doesn’t hurt to ask. I talk to a lot of people who don’t like to ask…but end up feeling disappointed or bitter because things don’t end up in a very Godly way, but they didn’t even ask God for help or leave it with Him. Now I can totally get on board with thinking I can fix something, but, in the end, nope. I have to let God know what I’m thinking and wanting, ask Him to search my motives and what His will is.

 

The crux? I love what it says in the third verse…sometimes we don’t get what we want because we’ll only end up “spending” it on our own pleasures. Even though that’s a negative thing, I still like it because it gives me an answer. I don’t know all of God’s ways or His thoughts, so if things don’t go the way I think they should go, then I can ask myself, “Would I have spent the answer on something NOT for his kingdom?” God knows that even better than I do. 

 

We can say “Prayer is simple,” but really?


Sheila Wills

january 11 // ephesians 6:18

"a gentle whisper"

Where's your quiet place with the Lord?

Often when we sit down with the intention of being quiet before the Lord, our mind starts working overtime. The Bible says the battleground is in the mind, not in the heart. We suddenly remember all the things we need to do. Random thoughts pop into our head. Quite often the Lord speaks in a gentle whisper; He can't get through if we're thinking about something else. 

We need a special place where we withdraw to be with God alone. It will take some time to establish the habit and learn how to make this happen; even settling down and focusing will take some time! BUT, if we want to be used by God, if we want to hear from God and know intimacy with Him, then we have to prioritize our quiet time.

PRAYER: Father, I am so aware that I find all kinds of excuses for not setting aside time to spend with You. Help me to reset my priorities so that I can make time with You. Amen.

january 11 // pray in the spirit

AUTHOR:  jack miller

READING:  ephesians 6:18

When I first read this verse, I was trying to see what each little part of it really meant and what stood out to me. And, for whatever reason, it brought back a few memories of when I was a Mormon missionary.


There were times when I was a missionary that I would use one single verse to prove a point to people. A lot of times, these were mainstream Christians I was "Bible bashing." When I was quoting out of the Bible, they didn’t always know how to react or respond back. Since then, using Greek and Hebrew lexicons, as well as concordances, I have studied many of the verses that I shared and realized that I missed much of the context of the verses myself. I had manipulated doctrines with a very limited view of the Bible.


When I was reading Ephesians 6:18, I had to ask myself, “Am I taking this out of context?” I think it’s important to look at the previous eight verses in Ephesians 6, wherein Paul is referring to the armor of God.


Almost all of these pieces of armor are used in defense of the enemy or Satan. Only the sword of the Spirit is the weapon of attack. He prefaces verse 18 about prayer with several verses about getting ready for a fight. If the previous eight verses are about preparation for the fight, I believe that verse 18 is talking about the actual fight, or at least a way that we can fight. Prayer is also a way that fastens all of the pieces of the armor of God together and is a way for successful warfare. In the next three verses, Paul asks that the believers pray for him, that he can fight through his words and proclaim the gospel fearlessly. Prayer was a way for the believers to fight alongside Paul.


Reading these familiar verses also brought back the memory of eating Cream of Wheat almost every morning on my mission because it was very inexpensive. To this day, I rarely eat Cream of Wheat because I ate it so much, and sometimes without milk or sugar. It was just plain water and Cream of Wheat for breakfast. And then I thought to myself, “Are my prayers just plain Cream of Wheat? If they are, what does a plain Cream of Wheat prayer look like?” I believe it would look like a prayer that was mechanical, routine, very bland, and without any taste or flavor--a prayer that would just meet the bare necessities of life or survival.


To me, verse 18 is saying that we should spice our prayers up a little, making sure that we’re praying any and all kinds of prayers in the Spirit: prayer for spiritual breakthroughs, prayer for someone’s salvation, prayer for our own salvation, prayer for the kingdom of God, prayer for the people of God, prayer that has no limitations placed on God or His people.


In these 21 days of fasting and prayer, many of us are going without sugar and/or without any type of food that has spice or taste. I say let’s spice up our prayers; let’s pour on the flavor and pour on the sugar for God. He is worthy of it.


Jack Miller 

january 10 // 1 kings 18

"come to him in prayer"

Elijah was an ambassador for God. You will remember that Elijah prayed and God withheld the rain for three and a half years. Then Elijah prayed again, and God sent the rain. In 1 Kings 18, Elijah challenged the prophets of Baal to see whose god was the real God. They built an altar and called to their gods, but nothing happened. Then Elijah built an altar and even poured water all over it. Then He asked God to bring down fire from heaven. The Lord did this and consumed the entire sacrifice. 

Sometimes we find it hard to ask for what we need. Perhaps it is because we are independent and too proud. We want to be self-reliant. We want to do things our way or we don’t want to do it at all. However, there comes a time when we have to say, “God, if You don’t do this, I am finished. Lord, I need You.” When you attempt big things for God, then you have to ask Him for what you need. You know that if He doesn’t do it, it’s not possible. It is a good place to be, because then, when it is accomplished, God receives the glory. Our part is to come to Him in prayer and ask.

PRAYER: Father, I desperately need a miracle. I come to You, asking You to please undertake for me. As I wait on You in faith, I pray that You would make a way for me. Amen.

january 10 // an obedient heart

AUTHOR:  brook binstock

READING:  1 kings 18

"Let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back."


This is such an incredible story of God's power. There is no denying Him when reading 1 Kings 18! The Israelites themselves turned back to the Lord after seeing His display of power on the mount that day.


What stood out to me the most as I read it this time was the obedience and heart of Elijah. He wasn't doing this to bring glory to himself, or to shame anyone, or to just prove a point. He wanted EVERYONE to see that the Lord is God, the only God! As I get older, I feel like the prayer Elijah was praying in verses 36-37 is becoming more my heart as well. I am your servant, and I want to follow your word and your leading so that...people may know that you are God, that you are good, that you want them, that you are forever loving and kind.


Don't get me wrong, I'm a pretty selfish person a lot of the time! But after having three boys and being knitted together with my spouse, my selfishness had no choice but to dissipate a bit. I would honestly give anything to make sure my children know who God is and how much He desires relationship with them. 


Lord, let the prayer of Elijah be my prayer as well today. Answer my prayers according to Your will so that people will see You and know You are God, that they will turn their heart back to You.


Brook Binstock

JANUARY 9 // Luke 18:1

"ALways pray"

The Bible tells us that Elijah had the same passions as you and I. In other words, he had the same failings we have. He faced the same temptations. He was plagued by the same fears and doubts, but he was a man of faith, a man of prayer. 

Another man that comes to mind is Smith Wigglesworth, a humble man but a man of prayer. There are several reports of people who were raised from the dead through his ministry. He said, “I never pray for more than thirty minutes; but I never let thirty minutes go by without praying.” That’s the difference. Some people want to talk all the time. Let’s stop talking and rather see what God has to say about the matter.

PRAYER: Father God, thank You for the reminder that I should always pray. I know that sometimes my prayers lack conviction. Help me to speak positively about situations I have prayed about. Help me to pray, believing You for the answers according to Your will. Amen.

january 9 // successful prayer

AUTHOR:  randy wills

READING:  luke 18:1

"Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up."


Anyone who knows me even a little bit knows that I’m fairly competitive, so giving up hasn’t been much of a problem for me except in a few areas. 

 

I come from a very musical family. Both parents and both siblings play instruments and sing with a high level of competence. It was perfectly natural that my parents thought that it was my destiny to be musical as well. In first grade, my mom decided that I needed to learn to play the accordion; she had one and played it with proficiency, so it was logical. Maybe it was logical, but not practical. Even in 1962 there were not many first graders playing the accordion. She gave up when I reached the second grade, but when I went to junior high, she signed me up for band. I took the test to see what my musical aptitude was, and since I came from a family of musicians, it was fairly high—high enough that the instructor wanted me to play the French horn. I white-knuckled it through junior high band for three years. You need to know that once you learn the French horn, you can also play a trumpet. My parents could afford a trumpet, but not a French horn, so that’s what I had at home to practice.

 

Christmas in my ninth-grade year produced the last straw for my musical career. I was asked to play “We Three Kings” on my trumpet at my church’s Christmas service. If you know music, you know that that is not a difficult song. As a freshman I even knew that it wasn’t difficult, so why should I spend time practicing? You can imagine what happened. It was a disaster. Any note that I did get right that day was by accident, I’m sure. I can still remember putting that trumpet into its case and telling myself that I would never open it and play again. I kept my word. 

 

I quit because I failed. The great thing about prayer is that the only way I can fail is not to do it. The success or failure is all up to God. Prayer is our part; conversing with our Creator is a privilege, and His answering our petitions is the bonus. The hard part is in His hands.

 

By the way, I also married into a family whose parents and all 3 siblings play instruments and sing. My wife and kids and even my grandkids are musical, and I still play a simple stereo. I’ll always lay the blame on the accordion in 1962…why couldn’t it have been an electric guitar?


Randy Wills

JANUARY 8 // 

1 thessAlonians 5:16-18

"the importance of prayer"

Dr. Billy Graham was asked what the three main principles were that made him the most successful modern-day evangelist. He answered that the first one was prayer, the second one was prayer, and the third one was prayer. 

When you have your quiet time, you begin talking to God. You listen more than you speak. A lot of us battle to keep quiet. God gave us two ears and one mouth. We are meant to listen twice as much as we speak. 

Prayer is not a grocery list of “Lord, give me, give me, give me …” No, it is a conversation. Let’s work on developing a relationship with the Lord instead of using Him as a fire escape.

PRAYER: Almighty Father, I am reminded that Jesus, my Savior, did nothing without first speaking to You. Help me to get into the habit of talking to You and developing a relationship with You. Lord, I ask You to help me become a person of prayer. Amen.

JANUARY 8 // attitudes of the heart

AUTHOR:  kevin taylor

READING:  1 thessalonians 5:16-18

When I read this as a younger Christian, I thought the goal was to do all I could to discipline myself, however possible, to consistently perform the actions of rejoicing, praying, and giving thanks listed in this scripture. Now that I am older, I realize what I thought were acts of the will are more accurately attitudes of the heart that produce acts of the will.  


When I think of the examples we have of early Christians and how they endured persecution gracefully, I find it hard to imagine they were simply exercising an act of their own will to be thankful, rejoice, and pray.  It had to come from a place deeper than that. 


Just like them, our ability to rejoice, pray, and be thankful flows from our relationship with Christ. When our hearts are near Him, the exercise of our will is empowered by His grace and the expressions of rejoicing, praying, and being thankful are what come out of a heart that simply realizes those are the most reasonable attitudes to have considering the God we serve. 


Kevin Taylor

JANUARY 7 // 1 samuel 1:27

"powerful prayers"

Ern Baxter was an evangelist who was rebellious as a boy. He would tip-toe past his grandmother’s room and see her bedroom light shining under the door and know she was on her knees praying for him. 

Baxter was radically saved, and he became a preacher. God used him mightily in signs, wonders, and miracles. On Sunday mornings, thousands of people attended his church. His grandmother sat right in the front row; her head was bowed as she prayed for Baxter while he preached. 

Many years later when she passed away, Baxter was shattered. He had loved her very much. Baxter climbed up to the pulpit on the following Sunday morning. He opened his Bible and looked down to where his grandmother used to sit. Then he bowed his head and wept. He realized that he had always thought that God had gifted him to preach, and he suddenly realized it was because of his grandmother’s prayers. She was no longer there. At that moment, an elderly woman stood up at the back of the church and shouted, “Pastor, I’ll be your granny!” She came running forward, sat down in the empty chair and started praying; Baxter began preaching.

PRAYER: Heavenly Father, thank You for the people who have faithfully prayed for me throughout my life. Help me to become a mighty prayer warrior for others. Amen.

JANUARY 7 // answered prayer

AUTHOR:  warren bowles       

READING:  1 samuel 1:27

As I read this scripture, I am reminded once again of God's faithfulness. Hannah is acknowledging that God has heard and answered her petition for this child. God heard her prayer, saw her need, and answered her prayer. 

 

I am also reminded of the answered prayers in my own life. I came to realize many years ago that my relationship with the Lord had a definite connection not only to the way I prayed, but the prayers that were answered.  As I grew in relationship, I grew in understanding. My prayers became less about me and mine and more about what was truly important to the Lord. 


I find myself worrying less about my needs and, instead, praying for the needs of others, and the amazing thing is my own needs are readily taken care of. It seems, also, that the more I pray, the more I realize that I need to pray even more. That is one of the results of a deepening relationship with God through prayer.


Warren Bowles

JANUARY 6 // 

1 John 5:7; Acts 4:13

"pray and read the word"

Praise God that we have an opportunity to start fresh every new day, and every new year. Let us allow the Bible to renew our minds as well, dedicating ourselves to deeper study. 

There are many men and women who are professors of religion and know the Bible inside and out, but they have not met its Author. The reality is that the Christian faith is all about a Man, not an organization, and this Man’s name is Jesus Christ. 

When we read the Word and God starts to speak to us through it, then we can find true intimacy. God will reassure us and give us direction. We will begin to notice His influence in matters such as when to buy, when to sell, whether to change jobs, how to take care of our families, and so on. There’s an immense peace that comes upon a person who prays and reads the Word. 

What the world is looking for is not you and me, but Jesus Christ. The degree to which Jesus is involved in your life determines how effective you will be in kingdom work. Spend time with God. Have intimate times with the Lord, and watch your life change.

PRAYER: God, please bless the time I spend with You, and open my eyes to the meaning of the Bible. Amen.

JANUARY 6 // connected by a covenant

AUTHOR:  guy drescher        

READING:  1 john 5:7-8; Acts 4:13

1 John 5:7-8  

For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.


The mention of water and blood in verse eight reminds me of water and blood covenants in the Old Testament. Even the word covenant sometimes replaces testament when describing the Bible (i.e., Old Covenant and New Covenant). Covenants, particularly blood covenants, let everyone know that if you tangled with one, you would have to tangle with the other as well. When Christ came and died for our sins, he fulfilled the covenant between God and Abraham. But Jesus also offers the covenant of the Spirit.


The testimony of the Spirit of Christ not only imparts knowledge of the Truth of Christ, but invites me openly, without condition to be the testimony. And the Father calls me by a new name. Son. Eternally connected to the Father in a covenant with inequitable terms. I cannot even enter it without Christ! There is no way for me to fix myself before coming to Him. That idea is ludicrous! No, the goal is connection. Connection with the Father where He does the heavy lifting.


And with this richness of acceptance and forgiveness comes redemption of my very person that testifies of the power of Christ just as it did with the apostles in Acts 4:13.  Oh the life and peace that comes from accepting that invitation! 


Guy Drescher

JANUARY 5 // 

psalm 121:1-3; Isaiah 41:10

"your heavenly helper"

Who is your helper? When you turn on the television and you listen to the news, what do you see and hear? There is a meltdown taking place in the world today—economically, environmentally, politically. You start to wonder if there is a future for your children. What hope is there left for the world?  


Jesus Christ has never lets us down. He is more than our Helper; He is our Protector. Be encouraged today to start concentrating on what Jesus says about you and not on what is going on in a world gone upside-down. 

Let’s pray and refocus. Let's be excited to be alive, because the best is yet to come—the Master is coming in all His glory. So take heart, be of good cheer, because the Lord has promised never to abandon us.

PRAYER: Lord, I know there has been discord on this earth every day since the Fall in the garden. Help me to look forward to a day when all is made right again. Amen.

JANUARY 5 // he's got me

AUTHOR:  patrick maestas

READING:  Psalm 121:1-3; isaiah 41:10

I’m not much of a worrier. I feel like I’m pretty good about going with the flow and keeping stress out of my life. But, with the addition of my children and all that comes with being the provider for my family, the worries and the potential spiral of stress is never far away. Occasionally, I allow that stuff in my head and start freaking out. How will we pay for everything? When will I find time to take my wife on a date? Cars, and house, and bills, and work, and youth group, and worship, and.. and... and... It can be paralyzing. Eventually, I decide to stop thinking and trust the Lord.


These couple of verses really help me calm down. He’s got me. I will get through this craziness of life. When I picture God in my corner, ready to coach me through, it makes all my fears and stress melt away. If He made the heavens and the earth, then He can calm my self-inflicted storm.

My worry is small compared to our God. I’d really like to be better at defaulting to trusting Him. That’s what comes to mind for me when I read these verses. I know the Lord is watching me. Always. It is when I allow my mind to run with worry that I forget this truth. But even when I’m in that state of mind, He is there. He is watching over me, and He will never fall asleep on me. He really is a Good Father to me.


Patrick Maestas

JANUARY 4 // ezra 3:11

"acts"

How can we face the day without first spending time with the Master?  As believers, we speak about Him and to Him all the time, but we also need an intimate, one-on-one time with Him. It is like spending time with your spouse or best friend—when you are together at a social gathering, it is fun, but there has to be time for just the two of you. 

Here's a simple method of praying using the acronym ACTS. 

A stands for ADORATION. This is the time to adore the Lord for who He is; to give Him thanks for a new day; to praise Him for the beautiful new morning. 

C stands for CONFESSION. This is the time to repent before the Lord, to ask God to forgive your sins. Maybe you lost your temper with your family unintentionally; maybe it is something you have neglected to do; but the Lord forgives and cleanses. 

T stands for THANKSGIVING. We should thank God for His undeserved lovingkindness that gives us the opportunity to call ourselves His children. We can thank Him for our family and loved ones and for new opportunities in life. 

S stands for SUPPLICATION. Bring all your requests before God concerning your life and your family’s well-being and future. 

Pray specifically, expectantly, and faithfully.

PRAYER: Lord, be with me in prayer as I engage with You through adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication. Amen.

JANUARY 4 // loud

AUTHOR:  sheila wills

READING: ezra 3:11

I love the book of Ezra because it talks about the rebuilding of God’s temple after years of devastation. This book is sheer poetry for me. I get stirred up in my spirit every time I read it (admittedly, along with Nehemiah). Its beauty in showing Israel’s passion for God and the metaphor it sets up for the Christian life is nothing short of amazing.

 

After 70 years in captivity, the Israelites are allowed back into Jerusalem (just as God promised) to rebuild a temple to their God (the one, true God:), which was forever their centerpiece of worship. There were a lot of issues in the process; not everything was dreamlike and wonderful, but, in the end, they worked together, a spiritual renewal was birthed, and we have an incredible model of what it’s like to come together as believers and restore what the enemy has taken.

 

Ezra 3:10-13 gives a snapshot of what happened after they laid the foundation for the temple. I love the picture of fancy clothes, trumpets, and cymbals! God is a big God, and His people chose to honor Him in a big way! They sang and shouted. God’s not deaf, right? I’ve heard that before, but apparently, He does love some noise! The verses go on to say that the sound could be heard “far away”! How loud was THAT?? When you love something so much that you’re about to burst, how can it not be something that others can hear? I can see myself right there with those guys, shouting and singing, jumping and crying, praising God for what He was doing! Fanatical with a capital “F.”


Sheila Wills

JANUARY 3 // 

colossians 4:2; 

matthew 6:5-13 

"prayer changes things"

Something worth having is always worth praying for. When we seek to spread God’s Word, it’s not medical help, education, or impressive speeches that will turn the tide, but undiluted prayer and nothing less. We are working toward Jesus Christ’s harvest, so why wouldn’t we communicate with Him above all else? 

What is truly special is that Christ Himself prays for us. He is our ultimate Intercessor in this dying world. It is always touching to know that one of our friends or family members is praying for us, but how much more wonderful to know that the very Son of God is praying for you and me! He also sets a towering example of the way we should pray (Matt. 6:5–13). 

Do not neglect the “prayer closet,” the place where you pray alone to God. It is like the roots of a tree: without the roots the tree cannot grow strong and survive when the rough wind blows. Daily communion with our heavenly Father is absolutely critical to the Christian life. Give the first fruits of every morning, and indeed the rest of the day, to Jesus by spending time in prayer with Him. 

When you pray, go to a quiet place and keep it personal. Ask the Lord to visit you in a special and fresh way so that you can feel His powerful presence in your quiet time.

PRAYER: God, please make prayer my fuel for life. Thank You, Jesus, for interceding for me always. Amen.

JANUARY 3 // instruct me

AUTHOR:  jack miller          

READING:  1 colossians 4:2; matthew 6:5-13

In reading and reflecting on the verses above, I tried to think of a time in my life when I was being watchful, thankful, and praying when no one knew, and that God had answered my prayer.


Somewhere around 20 years ago, when I was practicing dentistry, I had such an experience.

A patient had come into the office with a very swollen face and acute pain.  They needed the tooth removed, which was infected and completely decayed. The tooth had completely crumbled and had to be removed piece by piece. To confirm that all of the pieces had been removed, an x-ray was taken. There was a root tip left. There was so much blood and pus everywhere that I couldn’t see the root tip even though I had my magnification glasses on.

I had a tough decision to make. Below the root tip lays the inferior alveolar nerve. If I pushed too hard, I could push it right into the nerve and cause permanent nerve damage, which would result in their lip or tongue being numb possibly the rest of their life.  If I left the root tip, it would be less ideal and the infected root could cause problems later. I would be justified in leaving the root tip because of this possibility, but ideally it would be best to remove the root tip, which would remove all of the infection.

With my eyes open, I appeared to be looking into the patient’s mouth as my assistant was suctioning the blood and pus. I remember thinking, "I’ve applied every surgical technique from dental school and from every post-graduate education course that I’ve taken, and it still is not enough." I don’t remember the exact words of the prayer when I prayed except that it started with, “ Dear Heavenly Father,” and somewhere in there were two words, “instruct me.“ I waited for several seconds, which seemed like a very long time. The thought came into my head with complete clarity to get a spoon excavator (dental instrument) and to have Nettie (dental assistant) place the surgical suction in a specific position. I asked my assistant to get that instrument, which is not a surgical instrument. She looked at me confused and with an expression on her face like, “What are you thinking?” and “What are you doing?” She found the instrument and placed the surgical suction in the position I had been instructed to have her do. I could now barely see the tiny root tip and with light pressure it was removed.

I never used that instrument again in surgery because it was not designed for surgery or to have a lot of pressure placed on it. In fact, in retrospect, it did not make any sense to use that instrument for that procedure.

I am thankful that we have a Heavenly Father that wants us to and is willing for us to communicate with Him--whether our eyes are open or closed, whether our head is bowed or not bowed, whether we are standing or kneeling, whether our arms are folded or not, whether we are alone or with two people or in the midst of 2000 people.

He still hears and answers our prayers and meets our needs.

He wants to “instruct us.“

I hope in this time of fasting and prayer, if any of us are at a crossroads or at a time when we need to make a difficult decision, please pray and ask Him to “instruct you” and wait and listen.

 

Jack Miller

January 2 // 

1 THessalonians 5:17 "Fervent Prayer"

It is said of Martin Luther that the busier he became, the more time he spent in prayer. The more responsibilities he had to shoulder, the earlier he got up in the morning. But with us it is often the opposite: the busier we become, the less time we spend in prayer. When you think about it, it’s completely nonsensical! 

Remember how much time you spent in prayer when you first gave your life to Jesus? How much did your faith grow in that time? And why should we not have the same energy now? Prayer is a basic ingredient of our faith for a reason: we need it to survive. 

We have to pray continually. Continuous prayer might take discipline at the start, but after a while it becomes a beautiful way to live, and a hallmark of a vital relationship with the Lord. 

january 2 // an invitation

AUTHOR:  brook binstock          

READING:  1 thessalonians 5:17

I'm not one to hold things in. Ask any of my closest friends. If there is something on my mind or heart, I want to talk about it! Every day when Steven gets home from work we talk, and that's after texting throughout the day. Sometimes, if everyone else is asleep and I think of something I forgot to talk about, I'll write a reminder so I remember to tell the person the next day. Haha! I'm a talker.


Pray without ceasing.


This scripture can seem at first impossible and then more like a chore than a blessing. To me, it sounds like an invitation. God is saying, "talk to me all the time." How many people in your life will tell you that! Even my sweet husband doesn't want to talk 24/7. God does. God wants to hear what's on my mind all day long. And He wants to tell me things throughout my day. He wants to be in communication with me with no breaks! 


Pray continually.


It's a pretty sweet invitation. During the Connection Initiative I'm going to take him up on his invitation and talk to him. Not only talk to him, but talk to him first! Before I go to anyone else, I'm going to go to him. I'm going to tell him about my day, what's on my mind, any hard decisions I'm trying to make, the things that are hard or sad, and the the things that make me laugh and sing! 


Brook Binstock

As you begin these three weeks of fasting and prayer, know that God is on your side! He wants to hear from you, and He wants to talk to YOU. God is a God of relationship, and prayer is a major way that that relationship matures and becomes more and more meaningful. Take the opportunity these three weeks offers and accept the transformations God wants to do in your life!

JANUARY 1 // ONE OF MY FAVORITE DAYS OF THE YEAR

AUTHOR:  RANDY WILLS             

READING:  1 PETER 3:12; 1 THESSALONIANS 5:17

what I didn’t do last year I will do this year, Mulligan, re-focus, anything is possible, clean slate. 


At age 62, I’ve had a few of these, and they aren’t getting any less important; in fact, quite the opposite. That clean slate needs to have some good items put on it this year. Some possibilities need to be achieved, and I need to get done what needs to get done. 

 

Today’s verse in 1 Peter helps with my re-focusing process. When I played football in high school, the person I wanted at my games more than anyone else was my father. I love my mom, and her being at my games was important (if you know my mom, you know that I could hear her cheering for me above the entire crowd), but Dad was the one I looked for in the stands. I wanted to show him how good of a player I had become (not that I was the next Russell Wilson), and for him to be proud of me. 

 

But more than that, my dad understood the game, and after the game, we were able to have a conversation about it. He was able to tell me the plays where I played great, and he also showed me how I could have played better when tackling or running the ball. I want God to watch me this next year. I want His eyes to be on me. I want Him to see what I’m doing right as well as what I’m doing wrong and what I can do to improve my relationship with Him. I want Him cheering for me.


Pastor Randy Wills