Saturday, October 30, 2010

Woe Unto He Who Eats Candy on Halloween

Tomorrow most people around America will send their children out in disguise to trick their neighbors into lavishing them with free candy.  Yes, it is Halloween.  A day of much controversy among Christians. Some believe it is no problem at all and others believe that the day is the celebration of evil and participating in any activities of that day is just about Satan worship.  Then there are others who may believe that while Halloween is bad the celebrations aren't and so they will have a "Harvest" party on or around Halloween with many of the same activities but just calling it something else.  So which one is right?  The answer (I believe) is whatever you are convicted of it to be.  In other words, Halloween is like food sacrificed to idols and is a matter of personal conviction on how you partake.
One person esteems one day above another; another esteems every day alike. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes it to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe it. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks. Romans 14:5-6 NKJV
I believe this passage can apply just as much to days like Halloween as it does anywhere else.  The one caveat is that you do celebrate the day unto the Lord and in accordance to His Word.  For example, it may be fine for you to go to a Halloween party, but do not go and get drunk or dress immodestly.   Also, if you do dress in a costume, pick something that is celebrates the light not the darkness that some celebrate that day. Above all, do not do more than pagans do to keep the original meaning alive.  I have to be honest, I did not know that Halloween had anything more to do with candy and costumes until after I became a Christian. If you are a parent, I want to assure you that dressing your child as a bunny to get some free candy from a neighbor is in no way celebrating Satan.

So act in whatever way the Lord convicts you tomorrow.  If you celebrate then give out the biggest and best candy dressed in your best costume and have a wonderful day unto the Lord.  If you do not wish to participate, please still give some candy out.  Use it as an opportunity to share the love of Jesus as there is never a wrong time to share His love.  So to those who think that even if you change the name and meaning it is still wrong to celebrate a traditionally pagan holiday, I say "Merry Christmas."  And to those who think it is wrong to celebrate the day even unto the Lord and still keep its pagan name, I say "Happy Easter."

God bless you all and whatever you do tomorrow, do it unto the Lord.   
Do you have faith? Have it to yourself before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because he does not eat from faith; for whatever is not from faith is sin. Romans 14:22-23 NKJV

Friday, October 29, 2010

Hall of Faith Series Part 3 - Noah

It's Friday so today we will be continuing our series though the Hall of Faith.  This ties right into yesterday where we studied a modern example of the people God names in the Hall in George Mueller.  We think sometimes that these great men of faith are some standard we can never reach, but they were mortal men and women just as we are, just as George Mueller was.  Never think we can not have that kind of faith.  God shows us them as examples and to have that kind of faith is something we should all seek after.  Here is today's subject.
By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.  Hebrews 11:7 NKJV
For the account of Noah, we return to Genesis.
Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose. And the LORD said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years."  There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the LORD said, "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them."  Genesis 6:1-7 NKJV
Here we set the scene for Noah. The world was a terrible sinful place.  In fact, demons were mating with women, resulting in a super race of evil giants.  God gave man a warning in that he drastically curtained his lifespan to 120 years.  Remember, men were living hundreds of years before this time.  Man continued to get worse to where it had gotten to the point where there was nothing redeemable.  Mankind had completely fallen.  Man was living in utter rebellion to God.  God had come to the end of his patience with man and pronounced judgment upon the whole earth. 
But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.  Genesis 6:8 NKJV
God''s grace is an awesome thing.  God was so displeased with what He created, He could have just wiped it all away.  He could have hit the "reset" button and started all over again.  God did not give up on man, though.  God loved us whom He knew before the foundations of the world too much to erase us all from existence.  God needed a man of faith and He found that in Noah.  Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.  How did he find grace?  He found it by faith.  Noah maintained his faith in God despite the evil around him. God rewarded Noah's faith by not only saving him and his family, but through him God saved mankind's existence.  That is how much the faith of one man can matter.
This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God. And Noah begot three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.  Genesis 6:9-10 NKJV
This may seem like a strange place for a genealogy, but this is also part of setting the stage for the account of Noah.  First of all, we see that Noah was a just man and also a good father.  He begot three sons and those sons are important because it is through Noah and his seed that mankind would repopulate the earth after the flood.  These men are important because all of us are ancestors of them.  We are all descended from Noah. 
The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.  Genesus 6:11-12 NKJV
Now we get back to the account of Noah.  We reprise the condition of the earth in that it is wholly in rebellion towards God.  
And God said to Noah, "The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth."  Genesis 6:13 NKJV
Can you imagine Noah getting this news?  Noah, a man of faith, must have been grieved by what he saw around him each and every day. Now God comes and tells him that He will destroy it all.  God just told Noah that He is about to destroy the world. 
"Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch. And this is how you shall make it: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. You shall make a window for the ark, and you shall finish it to a cubit from above; and set the door of the ark in its side. You shall make it with lower, second, and third decks. Genesis 6:14-16 NKJV
Here God gives Noah the construction plans for the ark.  We do not speak in terms of cubits anymore so we lose site of the magnitude of this ship.  This ship was 450 feet long, 150 feet wide, and 45 feet tall.  It was gargantuan.  I read somewhere that this was equivalent to 552 cattle train cars in cubic feet.  This was not small boat, this was a giant ship.  Now put yourself in Noah's shoes.  First God tells him that he will destroy the whole world.  Now God is telling him to make a ship of the likes that mankind had never seen before.  And it is not like he could just go to Home Depot and get some two-by-fours, nails, and a hammer and put this thing together. He had to get and prepare his own wood.  That is a lot of trees he was to have to cut down.  
"And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die." Genesus 4:17 NKJV
God now reveals how He will judge the earth.  He is going to flood it.  Now Noah's first through here may have been "What's a flood?"  Remember it never rained up until this point.  With no rain, there would have been no floods.  So now God tells Noah that He will destroy the world, to build a giant ship, and that He was going to make something called a flood to drown the earth. 
"But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark—you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you." Genesis 6:18 NKJV
And now God reveals His grace.  God is asking Noah to build something of the size the world has never seen to prepare for something the world has never experienced.  That is quite a tall order for anyone, but God knew that Noah had the faith to accomplish what He had asked.  And now we see the reward of that faith.  God is going to save Noah, his wife, his sons, and his son's wives all because of the faith of Noah.  For the sake of that one just and faithful man, God did not wipe out all of mankind.  That is an amazing picture of the grace of God.  This is an amazing example of how God can use the faith of even just one person. 
"And of every living thing of all flesh you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female. Of the birds after their kind, of animals after their kind, and of every creeping thing of the earth after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive. And you shall take for yourself of all food that is eaten, and you shall gather it to yourself; and it shall be food for you and for them."  Genesis 6:19-21 NKJV
This is why the ship had to be so large.  God would save the animals He created as well as Noah and his family.  Think of this command though.  He had to round up several of every kind of animal on the earth.  Keep in mind, this was early in creation before man bred out so many of the different kinds of subspecies that we have today.  It was still quite the command! 
Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.  Genesis 6:22 NKJV
What a statement.  Just meditate on that for a moment.  God told Noah to build a huge ship and while rounding up some each kind of all the animals of the earth.  What Noah was doing would have been large and public.  He was building the first ever ocean liner and filling it with animals, how do you hide that?  Imagine the ridicule he must have faced.  If they asked and he told them God was going to judge the earth, do you think they would have repented or thought him all the more crazy?  I daresay it was most likely the latter.  That is evident in the fact that the world did not repent.  But he pressed on and completed the task given to him by God.  For 100 years Noah built the ark faithfully while the world mocked him. Think on that, that he stood faithful working for the Lord for 100 years while the world mocked him. 
Then the LORD said to Noah, "Come into the ark, you and all your household, because I have seen that you are righteous before Me in this generation. You shall take with you seven each of every clean animal, a male and his female; two each of animals that are unclean, a male and his female; also seven each of birds of the air, male and female, to keep the species alive on the face of all the earth. For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will destroy from the face of the earth all living things that I have made."  Genesis 7:1-4 NKJV
Now the ark is built and the animals are rounded up and God tells Noah that it is time to load up  God tells Noah that in seven days it will rain and rain for forty days and nights.  Again, Noah's first thought had to be "What is rain?"  It never rained on the earth and so Noah would have no concept of what that even is. 
And Noah did according to all that the LORD commanded him.  Genesis 7:5 NKJV
We know the rest.  God rained down water on the earth for forty days and nights destroying all of mankind save Noah and his family.  The whole world was in rebellion to God, doing what was evil.  Noah, on the other hand, did all that the Lord commanded him.  That is a stark contrast.  Noah must not have been very popular.  In fact, it is probably only by the grace of God that Noah was not killed by the evil wicked world that rebelled against God.  But despite the wickedness of the world, Noah had faith and through that faith he obeyed God.  Do you think that Noah built the ark in his own strength?  Building a ship of that magnitude is impossible for one man to do on his own.  He obeyed God out of faith and God provided the means and ability to build an ocean liner.  Do you think that Noah had the engineering ability necessary to design something so large?  I would say not, but in faith he leaned on God's wisdom and accomplished his task. 

Noah was a man of faith.  He had faith in God to do the impossible in building the ark.  He had faith that God would be true to His word that something the world had never seen before was going to happen in that he believed it would rain.  He had faith that God would save him through the judgment in that he entered the ark when God told him to.  He had faith that God was righteous and just in that God was going to judge the entire world.  Noah was a man of faith in that his faith was tested and stood strong for 100 years.  Noah was a man of faith and that faith was rewarded in that God chose Noah out of all the earth to reestablish the human race and to be the ancestor of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Hebrews said that Noah was a man of faith and Genesis tells us that Noah found grace in God.  Noah was saved by grace through faith. The fruit of his faith was the human race.  What will the fruit of yours be?  Remember who that faith you have is in.  With God, nothing is impossible.
And the apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith." So the Lord said, "If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,' and it would obey you. Luke 17:5-6 NKJV

Thursday, October 28, 2010

God Needs Your Money To Continue This Blog

There is a man who wakes up in a king sized bed one morning and showers in his bathroom that has his five thousand dollar toilet seat.  He then gets in his luxury car (or has a limo pick him up) to take him to a small airport that houses his private jet.  He boards that private jet with bodyguards and a full production team and whisks off to some faraway land.  In that land, he and his team check into a luxury hotel where the man dresses into a suit that costs thousands of dollars and works with his makeup artist and stylist to get his look just right.  He then takes a convoy out to a poverty stricken village where his cameraman readies his multi-thousand dollar camera and the videos the man crying next to a poor child saying that God's work needs your money or that child may starve.  Does anyone else see what is wrong with that picture? 

There is another man that lived who name was George Mueller.  Here is his account.
A man named George Mueller, who lived in Bristol England in the early 1800’s, was called by God to care for orphans. He was an amazing man of faith. He read the scripture in Psalms 68:5 that says God is a father of the fatherless. He believed that if God was truly the father to orphans, all he had to do was to make himself available to care for the orphans and God would supply every need. So that’s what he did. He first opened his own home, and used what money he had to feed and clothe them. One morning, his wife told him that there was absolutely nothing in the kitchen for the children to eat. He gathered the children around the table for breakfast as he always did. The table was obviously bare, but he prayed to the Lord and thanked Him for the food that they would receive for breakfast. When he finished praying they all sat there for a few moments with their empty plates in front of them. In just minutes, there was a knock at the door. It was a man who owned a bakery. He told Mr. Mueller that before he had gone to bed the night before, the Holy Spirit told him that Mr. Mueller and the orphans had no food for breakfast, so he got out of bed at 4:00am and went to his bakery to bake fresh bread for the orphanage. Now while this conversation was going on, a milk truck passing by, suddenly broke down. The driver tried to fix the truck quickly but could not, so he went to Mr. Mueller standing on his porch to ask him if he could use some milk as he needed to unload the truck so that he work on it. So God miraculously provided.  As God increased his faith Mr. Mueller built homes and cared for more and more children. At his death, he was caring for over 2,000 children everyday!  Mr. Mueller never told anyone of his needs for his orphanage, his church, or his own personal needs.  -- Source: White Stone Ministries
I hope that we all see what is right in the example of George Mueller. 

After that rather long intro, today I want to talk about churches that constantly pander for money.  I want to preface this by saying that I do believe that the Word of God is clear in that we do need to support our churches.  God does not need our money, but God has given us the responsibility of providing for our pastors and the various other requirements for the work of the church (rent, utilities, etc).  I also believe the church has the responsibility before God to be good stewards of that money and to use it in accordance with His example and guidance.  I do not believe that a church should pander for money using threats of God needing it or the work of God ceasing because He does not have enough of it. 

The first thing I want to address is that God does not need money and to say so shows a real misunderstanding of just who God is.  Saying that God requires our money is saying that we can give something to God.  It is saying that we have something that God does not have.  It is saying that God relies on us.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Whatever bit of material worth we have was provided to us by God.  Giving to God is not really giving at all, but returning.  We are returning to God what God has given us.  The Bible is filled with examples of God giving increase and God taking it away.  God is our provider.  We need to believe that as individual Christians, and ministers need to believe that in terms of their ministry. 
"For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." Matthew 6:32-33 NKJV
This verse, I believe, applies just as much to churches as it does to individuals.  God knows the needs of our ministries and God will meet those needs. Going to the church body to pander for those needs is not seeking God first and allowing Him to provide, but trusting in your own ability to guilt people into giving.  If the work be of God, that work will get done.  God's work will not suffer for lack of funding.  That brings me to my next point.  For God to work what is required is faith, not money.
When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, "Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is this not the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas? nd His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?" So they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house." Now He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.  Matthew 13:54-58 NKJV
The hindrance for the work of God is a lack of faith.  If a pastor does not believe God can provide, then God will not provide.  The example of Mueller was one of faith where he never had to pander to anyone.  He had faith that God had called him to that work and so would provide, and God did provide.  If a pastor is pandering for money, that pastor is lacking faith.  He may preach faith and giving in faith and God not working because of their lack of faith in giving, but who is really lacking in faith is him.  Direction on when and what to give us a function of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the church members, it is not a function of a clever pastor playing on guilt.   He may provide the means for God to provide such as an offering if so led, but he would not have to pander. 

The next issue with pandering is accountability.  The example I gave is one showing how wasteful some of these ministries are.  God has provided a tremendous amount of funding that was squandered on needless luxuries.  This is made worse in that those perks are generally provided by the ministry and not as part of a salary.  When you give to these ministries, you are giving to wasteful earthly treasures.  You are not giving to the work of God at all.  Think about the example that I gave.  That village could have been fed for years on the useless luxuries in that minister's life.  I am not saying that a Christian can not be rich, but to live in the lap of luxury while crying that there is not enough money to help the poor is beyond disgraceful.  Another example is a ministry I personally gave a modest donation to when they came to my church at that time for a demonstration.  I daresay that they spent more money than what I gave them in phone calls and letters for the next year or two asking for even more money.  That is not being a good steward at all.  
And the Lord said, "Who then is that faithful and wise steward, whom his master will make ruler over his household, to give them their portion of food in due season? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you that he will make him ruler over all that he has. " Luke 12:42-25 NKJV
Remember, those ministers are stewards are responsible for what God has given them.  That provision was for the work of the kingdom and not luxurious living.  If a minister is pandering for money, it may not just be a lack of faith, but a lack of accountability.  He may very well be wasteful in what God has provided to him.  The wasteful minister will be held to account.
"And that servant who knew his master's will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more. " Luke 12:47-48 NKJV
The last reason I want to get into regarding a pastor pandering for money is him doing a work that is not of God. Sometimes those may actually even be "good" things from our point of view, but they are not what God has ordained.  Doing something not in the will of God, even if we think it is something we are doing for God, is not going to be supported by God.  God will not support our plans if those plans are not of Him. God will not support a ministry that He has not appointed. 

Sometimes those ministers started out serving God and God gave them great provision and they had great faith, but somewhere along the line they went astray.  They began to trust in those riches instead of God and they squandered that provision of God on themselves.  This reminds me of Israel when they reached the Promised Land for the first time and out of fear they refused to enter and take the land.  God took that command to take the land away and ordered them back into wandering in the wilderness.  Do not think that God may have taken the calling from those ministries for their lack of faith and accountability.  Those ministers may try to continue but then it is on their own strength and when they see God is not providing for them, they get desperate and pander all the more.  God is not with them and so their needs will never be satisfied.  They will ultimately fail.

Here is what happened when Israel tried to act without God being with them (and this story is played out over and over again throughout the historical books of the Old Testament).
"And the LORD said to me, 'Tell them, "Do not go up nor fight, for I am not among you; lest you be defeated before your enemies."' So I spoke to you; yet you would not listen, but rebelled against the command of the LORD, and presumptuously went up into the mountain. And the Amorites who dwelt in that mountain came out against you and chased you as bees do, and drove you back from Seir to Hormah. Deuteronomy 1:42-44 NKJV
God does not need our money for His work to go forth.  Do not ever believe that.  What God needs is our faith.  Many times that faith means giving of what God has given us, but even then that is conviction from within and not guilt from an outside motivator.  If we refuse to listen, God will just find someone else to give and we will be under His conviction for our failure to be obedient and someone else will be blessed for their obedience.  Money is another example of how we need to be like children before God.  Children have no means to earn money and so their parents provide all their needs. Many times those children want to give a gift to their parents and so those parents mercifully give them money to go "buy" them something.  Good children cheerfully and lovingly spend that money trying to get something really special for mom or dad.   In reality. it was mom or dad that purchased the gift.  The child got to share in that work, though, by spending what was given to them out of love for their parents.  May we have that same heart with God.  God does not need our money because He is the one who gave it to us in the first place.  What we use for God's work is part of that special relationship we have with God where we get to be a part of His work.  That is another reason why pandering is such a bad thing because it takes from that intimate relationship where you giving is part of your relationship with God. It makes it about the church or the pastor and not just between you and God.  This same metaphor applies to ministers who squander God's provision for ministry on luxury.  Maybe that child was not a good child.  Maybe he or she asked for the money and when shopping saw something that he wanted and he spent all or part of the money meant for mom or dad's gift on something for himself.  That child would be rightfully disciplined as will be by God if we squander His provision. 

God does not want a guilty giver.  God does not want someone who gives grudgingly or out of obligation.  God does not want someone giving money to a ministry not appointed by God.  And God does not want you giving your money to a ministry that squanders His money.  God loves a cheerful giver to a good steward of the Lord's work on earth.  God does not want it to be a show or in such a way to puff up our own pride as a person, church, or pastor.  Remember the 2 examples I started with.  One example is an example of a man who has squandered what God has provided and asks for more.  He guilts people into giving and brags about how much God has provided but of course through him.  It is a fake humility and they are the ones who wrongfully get the glory.  The other example, George Muller, is how things should be.  Mueller did not ask for anything from man but only from God.  He had faith in God and God alone and through that faith God provided.  He did not and could not take any glory for what God provided and we are hearing the story of the example of his faith.  Not as many people have heard of George Mueller as they have heard of others like Joyce Meyers and that is because Joyce Meyers is a story about Joyce Meyers whereas George Mueller is a story about God.  I will finish with an account of how Paul dealt with the offering he received for his ministry. 
Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:15-19 NKJV 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Gift of Prayer

Today I want to talk about prayer.  I am not going to talk about how to pray or why we should pray, but I want to talk about our attitude regarding prayer.  So many of us have some weird aversion to praying, especially when asked to.  I have been guilty of this as well, as my wife would attest to.  It is not that I do not like to pray, though, it is honestly because I love to hear her pray.  Beyond that, I have seen people constantly trying to pass off prayer onto someone else, especially at meal times.  We either politely refuse or "jokingly' pass it off to someone else.  I have been at meals where there was a silly game where everyone picks up a spoon and the loser (the last one to pick up a spoon) was the one who would pray.  Looking back, I find it rather tragic that praying was equating with losing.  The entire attitude of avoiding being the one to pray is completely wrong.  Prayer is not a burden or something to be ashamed of or shy about.  Prayer is our communication to and from God.  Prayer is not something we have to do, it is something we get to do.  Today, I want to talk about prayer as a gift from God. 

First of all, prayer is our right as children of God.  Almost everyone prays in some form or another, but only us in Christ have the right to come before God.  Not only can we come, but we can come boldly. 
Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.  Hebrews 4:16 NKJV
How amazing is that?  If you work for a large company, what right do you have to walk boldly into the office of the President?  If you live in a city of any size, can you waltz right into the mayor's office and speak your mind?  Can you get into the governor's office at any time and make your requests known?  Can you boldly enter the Oval Office and speak your mind to the president?  Of course not you can not.  But the Creator of the Universe, the Sovereign Almighty God invites you to come boldly before His throne at any time. 

Not only can we come to God and lay our petitions before Him, but He promises to answer those petitions. 
Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.  1 John 5:14-15 NKJV
Even if you get into the aforementioned offices, chances are your petition would fall on deaf ears before you are hauled off by security or the police.  With God it is not so.  With God, He will hear our petitions and He promises that He will answer them.  So now prayer is something we not only have a right to do, but it is something that will get a response from God.  God will listen, consider, and answer your petition. 

It gets even better.  God will answer your petition in the best way for you according to His glory. 
"Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! " Matthew 7:9-11 NKJV
Have you ever petitioned your congressman or senator for anything?  I have written letters before and usually get some form letter back that does not even really address the issue I even wrote about.  Again, this is not so with God.  God answers our prayers and answers specific to our needs and requests.  How can we not take advantage of such a wonderful gift? 

Petitioning the Lord with our requests is only one small part of prayer.  God, while answering our prayers, is not some mystical genie in the sky just existing for our requests.   While this is an amazing promise, prayer is even so much more than this.

We live in hard times.  The economy is rough and most of us our hurting in some way. We worry about our children, our jobs, our finances, sickness, war, terrorism, and so much more.  These care weigh us down and affect our lives.  This should not be so.  Prayer is how we give our cares to the Lord and let Him take care of them.  We are not to bear the burdens of those concerns, but give them to the Lord.  Prayer is how we do that.
Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.  1 Peter 5:6-7 NKJV
Prayer is our source of wisdom.  We do not know the beginning from the end as God does and so when faced with any decision, we do not have the understanding to really know the best choice to make.  What is amazing about God we do not have to.  In fact, God tells us not to.  God tells us that we are to rely on His wisdom.  That is only possible if we come to the Lord in prayer and ask Him for direction.  This is a confusing world , why would we not take advantages of the Creator's promise to guide us through it? 
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6 NKJV
Prayer is also our help in time of trouble.  Prayer is how we learn how to rejoice even in the worst of times. 
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  James 1:1-2 NKJV
Let's face it.  It is impossible to follow the command to rejoice in many of the trials we face in life.  That is why God in the midst of telling us to rejoice in trials tells us to ask Him for wisdom.  We can not rejoice in our own strength, but when we come to God in prayer and ask Him how to obey, that is when we ask Him how to rejoice, He will give us that joy!   If you are going through anything in life, the worst thing to do is take out your violin and start your own pity party.  We need to come to God in prayer and have faith that God will give us the joy and patience to get through our trial. 

Prayer is also how we draw nearer to God.  Prayer is our conversation with God.  It is not just speaking but it is also listening.  Prayer is a conversation and we too often forget that God does speak back to us.  God is our Father and we supposed to have those close intimate relationship with God.  God desires that relationship and we were created for it. 
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  James 4:8 NKJV
If we draw near to God, He will draw near to us.  We draw near to him by prayer.  Prayer is essentially a conversation with our Father and we get closer to anyone (including God) by talking to them.  Can you say you are getting closer to your husband or wife or children or anyone else if you never actually have a conversation?  Talking to God draws us nearer to Him and in turn He draws nearer to us. 

James 4:8 also brings up another point.  If we are to draw near to God in prayer, we must come with a clean heart.  Sin acts as a boundary to our prayers and before seeking God in other things, we much first seek God for forgiveness of our sins.  We must first confess our sins to God, who is faithful to forgive our sins.  That is another gift of prayer, it is how we confess our sins to God and restore that relationship to where it should be.  It puts us in the right heart to draw nearer to God. 
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:9 NKJV
Note that we merely have to confess our sins. Now true confession bears the fruit of repentance, but it starts with confession.  We confess, God leads us to repentance through His work in our lives.  We do not come to confess as we would an earthly judge and expect punishment for what we may have done.  We confess expecting forgiveness and a restored relationship.  God is not going to mete out punishment or tell us some great work of penance that we must do.  We just have to confess, which requires speaking to God, which is prayer.  A gift of prayer is forgiveness of our sins. 

And finally, I will end with one of the greatest gifts of prayer.  That gift is that of the Holy Spirit.
"If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!"  Luke 11:13 NKJV
We receive the Holy Spirit at salvation and as I wrote yesterday He is ever-present with you.  But being God, the Holy Spirit's work in your life is achieved through prayer.  We are to address our prayers to the Father as Jesus commanded and through those prayers, the Holy Spirit will work in your life. We saw yesterday all the roles the Holy Spirit plays in our lives, but those roles are realized through prayer.  Not that our prayers have authority over the Holy Spirit, but because God desires that relationship with us.  He wants us to acknowledge that we rely upon Him.  He wants us in communication with Him as He works in our lives.  How can we expect God to work in our lives if we do not talk to Him.  How would that work have any effect if we do not take the time to hear from Him.   Think of all you are missing out on if you are not in communion with God.

Prayer is an amazing gift and it is time we stop trying to associate it as something we "have" to do and cherish it as something we get to do.  Instead of hoping we don't get picked to pray, we should volunteer.  Instead of rushing to pick up a spoon, we should sit still and realize that the last person to pick up the spoon is actually the winner. God, the Almighty Creator, is more accessible than anyone even hear on Earth.  Remember even our salvation was an act of prayer when we came to Jesus and asked Him to be Lord of our lives.    If you want the Holy Spirit to be more in your life, pray.  If you want God to provide your needs, pray.  If you want God to forgive your sins, pray.  If you want joy in your life in the midst of trouble, pray.  If you want to be closer to God, pray.  If you want guidance, pray.  If you want God to take your cares, pray.  If you lack any of these things and can not understand why, pray.  We lack because we do not ask.  We lack because we are not spending time in prayer.  The Bible tells us to pray without ceasing, anything less and we are cheating ourselves.
And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight.  1 John 3:22 NKJV