Behold, the LORD our God has shown us His glory and His greatness, and we have heard His voice from the midst of the fire; we have seen today that God speaks with man, yet he lives. Deuteronomy 5:24
Do you ever feel that your prayer life is in a rut? Are there times you don’t feel like praying? When you do pray, do you find that you often repeat the same words to God? Do you consider your relationship with God to be important but not what you would call dynamic? Is prayer a one-way conversation, with you doing all the talking? Have you ever longed to hear God speak to you? Do you wonder at people whose prayers are infused with power and whose lives are characterized by passion for God?
If any of these things are true for you, let me assure you, you’re not alone. However, God does not want us to stay on the outskirts of intimacy with Him! He has removed the veil that once separated men and women from His holy presence. He invites us to enter His glorious throne room, feast our eyes on His holiness, hear His voice, and be impassioned with His power.
Rather than settle for a less-than-vibrant prayer life, you truly can pray with purpose and live with passion!
If you desire more fervency in your prayers and more passion in your relationship with God, He waits to receive you with open arms. Just as Abraham, Moses, and others encountered the living God and were changed into men and women of purpose and prayer, you, too, can experience a life-transforming encounter with God.
Abraham’s life was transformed through encounters with God. Abraham chose to walk with God. His relationship with God deepened and became more purposeful as Abraham grew to know the Lord more intimately. By picking up this book, you are responding to God’s call to know Him more intimately and to pray to Him more purposefully. In the following pages you’ll have the opportunity to know God increasingly on the basis of twenty-six aspects of His divine nature. As you purposefully have prayer encounters with God and learn to pray with His divine attributes in mind, your relationship will deepen and your passion will grow as you see His hand at work in your life.
Moses’s life was transformed through encounters with God. Moses had no idea when he stopped to look at a burning bush that his life would forever be changed, that he would one day be parting waters and passionately leading others to know God. In the same way, you do not yet know all that God has in mind for you. However, your life will be filled with new purpose and passion if you’ll make time to be in His presence, if you look into God’s divine face and ponder the wonder of His glory. If you, like Moses, will follow the sound of God’s voice, He will lead you to experience His passion and power in ways you never imagined!
The Bible says God is a consuming fire.1 He is aflame with passion, and His appearance in Scripture is often marked by fire:
• With a flaming torch, God sealed His covenant relationship with Abraham.2
• God appeared to Moses in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush.3
• God led the nation of Israel to the Promised Land in a pillar of fire by night.4
• God consumed Elijah’s offering with a fire from heaven when he stood against the false prophets of Baal and called the people to return to God.5
• Jesus’s presence and words to the disciples on the road to Emmaus caused their hearts to burn within.6
• When God sent His Holy Spirit to believers at Pentecost, in accordance with His promise, the Spirit appeared in the form of tongues of fire resting on them.7
Acts 2 highlights the coming of the Holy Spirit, that moment of which Jesus had spoken to the disciples. Although the Spirit’s coming was a fulfillment of Jesus’s promise that they would receive spiritual power, the disciples participated in the encounter with God by obediently waiting in faith as Jesus had instructed, by continually devoting themselves to prayer, and by reading and acting on His Word.8 Because of the disciples’ willing participation and obedience, the Holy Spirit, symbolized by tongues of fire, inflamed and impassioned their hearts.
As we’ll discuss in the following pages, since Pentecost the Holy Spirit has been given to Christians at the moment of salvation. He both impassions and empowers us to fulfill His purposes. However, the Holy Spirit can be grieved and quenched. Just as a joyful, vibrant woman can become grieved and subdued if she’s continually ignored or quieted by her husband, so we can quench and grieve the Holy Spirit by ignoring Him and discounting His presence in our lives.
The apostle Paul understood the dangers of allowing spiritual passion to grow cold. He urged Timothy to “kindle afresh the gift of the God which is in you” (2 Timothy 1:6). In other words, we are responsible to tend the flame of the Spirit in our hearts.
When my children, Taylor and Lauren, were young, I wanted to illustrate for them the principle of not quenching the Spirit. I brought logs in from outside and placed them on the kitchen floor. With a lighted votive in the center of our “campfire,” I explained that we put out a fire by quenching it with dirt. Just as dirt smothers a campfire, so sin quenches the Holy Spirit. However, a campfire can be rekindled, and so can the Holy Spirit, who glows as an eternal ember in our spirits. We can rekindle the flame of the Holy Spirit by throwing the wood of God’s Word on the fire. Then our prayers, like the wind on a campfire, can ignite the flames and passion of the Holy Spirit.
Yes, my friend, you can initiate and ignite encounters with the living Lord. Why not begin right now? Kneel in God’s presence. Tell Him you want the fresh wind of His Spirit to blow over the embers in your heart. Ask Him to fuel your mind and heart with His Word.
You will have the opportunity on the following pages to renew your vows to the Lord, to engage and invite Him to speak up in your life. As you do so, His purposes will propel you to serve Him in new ways, and His passion will ignite your prayer life!
Pray with Purpose, Live with Passion is designed to be used in a variety of ways. You can use it to deepen your personal prayer life, dig deeper in group study, and expand your intercessory prayers. It also can serve as an A to Z reference list of God’s attributes and a tool for memorizing those attributes.
God’s ultimate objective for us is to be transformed into His likeness as we live in His presence. One way to experience that transformation is by praying according to God’s A to Z divine attributes. Pray with Purpose, Live with Passion will deepen your prayer life as you become acquainted with God’s attributes and how He can meet your every need. Here are some ways to use this book as a devotional to help guide you into a deeper experience of prayer:
Read one chapter a day, beginning with the prayer. Rather than simply reading each chapter’s opening prayer, pray the words to God, either aloud or in your heart. Ask Him to open your eyes to who He is and to the greatness of His divine nature. Ask the Lord to make the Scriptures come alive in your heart and transform you into His likeness.
Look up and meditate on the verses referenced in each chapter. Paul revealed his passion to know Christ when he stated in Philippians 3:8, “I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Meditate on and highlight verses and statements that reveal God’s divine nature. Looking up the referenced verses will deepen your understanding and personal application.
Take time to contemplate the Meditation Moments. At the end of each A to Z chapter, a Meditation Moment summarizes some of the ways that particular attribute of God affects you personally. Thoughtfully consider what you’ve read and spend time thinking about what those truths mean to you. Why? Meditating and “chewing” on God’s Word helps you digest and absorb what you’ve read.
Kneel and PRAY. It is one thing to read about prayer. It is quite another to pray. After you read each chapter, humbly bow your heart, the innermost part of your being, before God. If you are able, kneel. Look up into the face of God. Praise and worship Him. Repent of any sin you have in relation to God’s divine attribute. Ask God to forgive you and to bring His character to bear in your life. Yield to God’s influence on your life as you give Him your hand and ask Him to lead you.
In addition to your personal reading, you may choose to meet with others to delve deeper into what you are reading. Why meet with others? First, Jesus modeled meeting in a group with His disciples. He shared with them. He prayed with and for them. Second, we are able to learn from one another and stimulate one another in a group. Third, a group encourages us to practice what we are reading. “Delving-Deeper Study Questions” are provided in the additional resources section, along with a guide for group leaders.
Sometimes we find ourselves in a rut in the way we pray for family, friends, church, and others. Pray with Purpose, Live with Passion will help you break free of routine prayer and enlarge the way you pray for others as you learn to pray according to God’s divine nature. For example, after reading, “Lord, You are Almighty,” we might pray, “Lord, You are the Almighty God. Work in John’s life in a powerful way today. Help him turn to You for strength.” When we read, “Lord, You Are the Door,” we may pray, “Lord, You are the Door. Prompt Sue to walk through the open door of prayer into Your presence and find help in her time of need.”
If you are recording your prayers in the Prayers of My Heart prayer journal,9 you may want to write “Lord, You Are” in the first column of Week at a Glance. Then you can record and praise God for a different A to Z attribute each day. In addition, you can use God’s attribute as a springboard to pray for yourself and others that day. (See Additional Resources for a sample.) At the end of the month, you will have prayed through God’s A to Z attributes!
Pray with Purpose, Live with Passion is an easy-to-use reference when you have a particular need and want to pray according to God’s divine nature. When you are discouraged or when temptation threatens your walk with God, look up an attribute of God that will help you pray. For example, if you are lonely, you can turn to “Immanuel” and be reminded that God is with you and will never leave you. If you are struggling, you can turn to the chapter that leads you to praise God who is Faithful.
Knowing God’s divine attributes prompts us to pray with purpose and to live with passion. In the mornings when we rise to pray, praising God for His A to Z attributes awakens our hearts and minds to His glory and power. During the day, having God’s divine attributes memorized arouses our minds to turn to Him when needs arise. As we become increasingly mindful of God, our hearts and spirits become tuned to the gentle touch of His guiding Spirit. Yielding to God’s divine nature, A to Z, redirects our prayers and passions from being self-centered and worldly driven to being spiritually driven.
May you be blessed as you draw near the throne of God and praise Him, A to Z!
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the
of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory
to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18
Oh give thanks to the LORD, call upon His name. Psalm 105:1
Lord, You are a great and awesome God, holy in word and deed. You have saved me by Your grace and reconciled me in Your mercy. Yet too often I don’t live by Your divine nature. Help me repent of all that is not of You. Transform me to be a reflection of Your divine nature as I gaze upon Your glory and live for Your purposes. In Jesus’s name, amen.
Many of us deal with an ongoing problem of sin, defeat, or spiritual apathy. Like the Israelites who looped in the wilderness instead of entering into the Promised Land, even after we become Christians and desire to change, we may find ourselves dealing with the same attitudes, worries, and temptations day after day instead of being transformed and living the abundant life promised by Christ. Some of us “settle in” with our fleshly dispositions. We may even call our unbecoming behavior a “pet sin” or believe it’s “our little secret.” Perhaps we excuse our thoughts and actions as being part of our personality—“That’s just the way I am”—rather than move forward and live passionately for Christ.
However, our spiritual apathy, our sins of omission (not living passionately for Christ), and our sins of commission (doing those things He tells us not to do) are dangerous. Sin, by its nature, hurts others, the cause of Christ, and us. In addition, sins that we may consider to be “secret” are, in fact, not. The Bible says that God knows the secrets of our hearts, that nothing is hidden from His eyes.1 Therefore we wear our sin and spiritual apathy as a billboard before our heavenly Father.
Perhaps we lack passion for the things of God because we haven’t yet captured the vision that Christ’s abundant life is a promised reality. Rather than petting our sin or excusing spiritual apathy, we can discover the joy of living a transformed life when we stop, look up, and pray in relation to God’s divine attributes.
Wandering on a Wilderness Loop or
Soaring Passionately for God?
Have you ever looked at people who live passionately for Christ and wondered how they do it or what makes them successful? People who live for Christ are distinct reflections of Him. Whether a Christian is a church usher with a contagious smile, a passionate youth worker, or a wife and mother who models Christ’s passion in her home, people who live for Christ glorify God.
The question: How do we become like those who are passionate for Christ? If we are apathetic toward the things of God, how do we become enthused? If we are negative, how do we become positive? If lust has ensnared us, how do we break free? If we are sorrowful, how do we enter into Christ’s joy?
Is there a way out of our wilderness loop, a way to move beyond where we are and live a passionate abundant life?
Yes! God would not give us the promise of a transformed life if it weren’t possible. How do we break free? How do we live passionately? Taking Christ as our model—along with a firefighting illustration—let’s begin!
If we want to break free of our wilderness loop of spiritual apathy or sin and become passionate for God, we must first learn to recognize when we are in danger. Firemen warn us that if we smell smoke, the first thing to do is stop! Don’t walk through a closed door, where fire could be raging.
Likewise, the first key to escaping the sin of spiritual apathy is to stop. The moment we smell a defeated attitude or sin overtaking us, we can stop and turn to God’s Word or stop and pray. Each of us has the opportunity to stop and think about what we are doing or about to do. We can stop and think about where our minds are going. We can stop and think about where our emotions are headed. We can choose to not put our hand on a door, on a keyboard, on a telephone, or to dwell on a past incident that keeps us looping in sin rather than living passionately for Christ.
We can stop and, as Colossians 3:2 encourages, set our minds on the things above. We can stop and look into the divine face of God. We can stop and purposefully take “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). We can lasso sinful or apathetic thoughts, pull them in, and take them as prisoners to the throne of Christ. We can purposefully, prayerfully ask Him about them. Does the act or thought fit Christ’s divine character? If not, don’t do it or think it. Take the exit God provides.2
How did Jesus handle situations that would have prevented Him from soaring and doing the will of God? Perhaps there is no better place to look than the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus “stopped” prior to His arrest and crucifixion. “Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, ‘Sit here while I go over there and pray.’ And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me’” (Matthew 26:36–38).
The first point we learn from Jesus about living passionately for God is to recognize that there will be times of testing, grief, and distress in each person’s life. They are not necessarily synonymous with sin or being out of God’s will, but rather can be natural worldly trials and sufferings. However, in order to not become “grounded” in them, or stuck in their continual loop, we must stop in God’s presence, as Jesus did.
Second, we learn that if we want to live passionately for God, we must, as Jesus did, keep watch. Jesus recognized that the fires of hell were being stoked. The enemy was plotting to incite the Jews to crucify Him. With the certainty of the cross at hand, Jesus stopped in His Father’s presence. Though He strained against His flesh and grieved to the point of sweating drops of blood, He did not throw His hands in the air and say, “I can’t go through with this!” Jesus stopped and told the disciples to keep watch with Him.
Jesus stopped. He recognized evil’s presence and the weakness of the flesh. He knew He had a watch to keep that night in the Garden of Gethsemane. You and I need to ask ourselves if we know when we have a watch, when a certain behavior or sin threatens our walk with God, when Satan is stoking the embers of temptation to divert us from praying with purpose and living with passion.
What experience or sin keeps you grounded rather than soaring passionately? Is it a time-consuming habit? Is it a certain place? Is it when you are under pressure or tired? Is it when you get home from work or the children challenge you or you’re paying the bills? Is it when you check your e-mail and enticing pop-up ads appear? Is it when you’d rather sleep than go to church or rather watch television than pray?
Do we recognize, as Jesus did, how important it is to stop and keep watch if we want to pray with purpose and live with passion for Christ?
After we’ve stopped, our next step in being transformed into people who live passionately for Christ is to drop. Those who know the danger of fire warn us to stop and drop to the floor if we are caught in fire or smoke with no immediate escape. Why? Smoke rises. Continuing to walk upright in a smoke-filled room can be deadly.
In like manner, when we see or smell the smoke of spiritual apathy or of sin filling our hearts—in the form of laziness, a flashback of a wrong done to us, an enticing food or drink to which we are addicted, a hole of self-pity, an unhealthy relationship, a pornographic picture, or a swell of anger—we have an opportunity to drop to the floor. Rather than walk in mediocrity or sin, we can drop to our knees in prayer.
Consider how Jesus responded with passion rather than apathy after He asked the disciples to keep watch with Him: “And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face” (Matthew 26:39). Pressed by temptation to avoid the cross and aware of the excruciating pain soon to be inflicted on His body, Jesus stopped and dropped to the ground in prayer.
Like our beloved Savior, when we are pressed by temptation or trials, we can look up, through the smokescreen, into the glorious face of God, who is clothed in radiance. He will carry us safely through the fires of temptation and give us wings to soar as eagles when we drop to our knees in prayer.
The third word of instruction firemen give is to roll if our clothes catch on fire. Why? To smother the fire. To put it out as quickly as possible.
So what do we do when temptation, sin, or spiritual apathy burn within our hearts? The answer is to PRAY! Listen to the words of Jesus: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me, yet not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). Jesus prayed this three times.3 In Jesus’s passionate prayer we find that He did four things that transformed Him and gave Him strength:
First, He praised God. He acknowledged God’s sovereign will over His. This is the highest form of praise, to look into the divine face of our heavenly Father and acknowledge Him and His will.
Second, although Jesus had no sin to confess, He repented. He confessed that He wanted to go in a different direction than the cross. However, He expressed His willingness to submit to His Father’s will.
Third, He asked God, “Let this cup pass from Me.” Perhaps this is the most moving prayer Jesus ever prayed. It is the only time I recall Jesus’s asking His Father for something and being told no. Should we ask? Yes! Consider how many hundreds and thousands of prayers Jesus prayed and His Father answered yes. “Yes, the blind can see. Yes, the lame can walk. Yes, raise Lazarus from the dead.” Then, “No, You cannot avoid the cross.” The penetrating question is, will we accept God’s no as well as His yes?
Fourth, Jesus yielded His will to His Father. Jesus not only said, “Your will be done,” He did God’s will at great sacrifice and cost. Jesus took our scourging. He was nailed to the cross to pay for our sins. Can we do any less than live passionately for Him?
When, like Jesus, we stop, drop to our knees, and PRAY—Praise, Repent, Ask, and Yield—we’ll break free of the wilderness loop that keeps us tethered in sin and spiritual apathy. We’ll discover the joy of a transformed life!
Pray with Purpose, Live with Passion is designed to help you break free from the wilderness loop and live with passion as you PRAY according to God’s divine attributes. In the next four chapters, we’re going to further explore what it means to PRAY. Then we’re going to look at twenty-six attributes of God and how they can help guide your prayers.
Why PRAY on the basis of God’s divine attributes? Because we are freed from looping in our sin or spiritual apathy as we look at the divine face of God. Praying according to God’s divinity helps us “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed” as our minds focus on who He is (Romans 12:1–2). Beholding God’s divinity gives us a visual of all that is “true . . . honorable . . . right . . . pure . . . and lovely” (Philippians 4:8).
As we consider the needs of others and ourselves and then stop, drop, and PRAY, we discover that God is gloriously sufficient for every situation. Whether we’re at home, driving a car, or sitting in a doctor’s office, we can PRAY according to God’s A to Z divine nature.
Will the divine Lord, the God of the Universe, hear us when we praise, repent, ask, and yield to Him in prayer? Indeed He will! Psalm 145:18 encourages us, “The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.”
I invite you to join me as we praise our glorious Lord, repent of our sin, ask God for His divine help, and yield our hearts to His divine will.