Private prayer (Matthew 6:5-13)

There are many different kinds of prayer. There is church prayer, there are other forms of communal prayer, and there is personal prayer. A healthy Christian in a spiritual sense will engage in each option. Moreover, within personal prayer, there are planned occasions and there are various situations when what are termed arrow prayers are made – those are prayers like the one that Nehemiah prayed when he was put on the spot by the emperor about his sad face.  Of course, there are also prayers that occur as we have communion or fellowship with God throughout the day.
Authority for personal prayer Why do we have to engage in times personal prayer? Because Jesus told us to do it. Since that is the case, a failure to do so is disobedience. Of course, he would not ask his followers to engage in a pointless activity. 
Why would Jesus want us to engage in personal prayer? The obvious answer is because it is connected to our spiritual good. It is through prayer that we receive grace from heaven.…

Praying for Spiritual Blessings (Ephesians 1:15-19)

Having composed a new statement of praise or used an already existing statement, Paul then informs his readers of how he prays for them. It is difficult to avoid thinking that Paul is indicating the normal order of two important spiritual disciplines, which is that prayer should follow praise. That is the order found in the Lord’s Prayer. When we draw near to God, we should worship him thoughtfully before focusing on petitions that we want him to answer.
This is confirmed by the way Paul says ‘for this reason’. He knew he could pray because God had acted abundantly in providing a gracious salvation. The reason is found in the preceding section where Paul says that God has blessed all believers with every spiritual blessing. Because he knows that God graciously did this for the Ephesians, Paul can pray his specific petitions.
Paul also tells us what the point of his prayer is, which is that believers would know God better. This outlook should be our personal spiritual ambition. The most …

The Coming of the New Age (Galatians 3:23-29)

The churches in Galatia, instead of moving forwards and discovering more about the blessings connected to the gospel declared by Paul and Barnabas when they were there during Paul’s first missionary journey, had been moving steadily backwards. If they went back too far, they would cease to be Christians. Paul does not want that to happen to them. Instead he wants to recover them from the dangerous path they were on. So he provides theological and practical explanations of why they should return as well as exhortations designed to make them think about what they were doing. His method of restoration is pastoral and patient. He cares about them and shows that he does when he repeats what he has said. He does so because he wants them to enjoy the salvation God has provided.
We should note that in this section Paul uses two different first-person plural pronouns. In verses 23-25 he uses ‘we’ and in verses 26-29 he uses ‘you.’ We can see from the latter set of verses that those described as…

Disappointment (Psalm 73)

There are different kinds of disappointment in life. Sometimes the causes of disappointment are temporary and often are forgotten with the passing of time. We might not have got the job we thought we wanted, but twenty years later we cannot recall what the work was about. At other times, the causes are lifelong such as the consequences of an illness. Maybe the source of the cause is in ourselves or maybe it was or is caused by someone else. Sometimes, the cause of disappointment is shallow and not worth speaking about whereas at other times the cause is so deep that it affects us for the rest of our lives. 
Who is the most disappointed person in the Bible?  Imagine Adam, in his 950th year, counting his numerous descendants. Which of them had not, in some way, been a disappointment to him? After all, his oldest son had been away from the family for most of that time. And Adam’s second son had been murdered by his older brother. Adam also knew that all the future descendants of his existi…

Who gets the Inheritance? (Galatians 3:15-22)

We can all imagine a situation in which the children of a deceased parent are gathered in a room to discover their share of the inheritance. They may have different reasons for wanting their share and they might be pleased with what they receive or they might be disappointed. Yet they cannot change the terms that were stipulated beforehand.
Or we may have known about families where the parents informed the children beforehand about their share in the inheritance, but then they added certain conditions to it that if ignored or adjusted would deprive their children of the promised inheritance.
Another possible situation occurs when the children are not mature enough to be given their inheritance and so the parents will have identified suitable people to guide and look after them until they are old enough to appreciate their inheritance. 
Although this imaginary set of circumstances seems far away from a church service, it is what this passage in Galatians is about. The question is, who get…

Deliverance and Delight (Esther 9–10)

The scene now moves on to describe what took place on the day when Haman had planned to exterminate the Jews throughout the Persian empire. It is obvious from the account that although Haman had been executed, there were still those who wanted to carry out his intentions, because over 75,000 of them were slain on the thirteenth day of the twelfth month. The strength of the opposition, therefore, throughout the empire was quite substantial. In the capital Susa itself, there were over three hundred people in the government headquarters, including the ten sons of Haman, that had to be dealt with. So obviously, the plan of Haman was not just the policy of an individual, although he was the architect of it.
Why did the Jews win? Why did the Jews enjoy success on this day? We need to bear in mind that although God is not mentioned in this book he is everywhere in it. So the question ‘why did the Jews win?’ is only another way of asking ‘what were the methods God used to give victory to his pe…