Monday, January 29, 2018

Spiritual U-Turns in Prayer

“‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:8-9

David thought he’d really had it this time. He was running for his life from his own son, Absalom, who was leading a coup to overthrow David. So what did he do? He turned to God–but not, at first, in the way we might expect.

In the first two verses of Psalm 3, David writes, “Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, ‘God will not deliver him.’” David sounds overwhelmed and scared. He feels surrounded by his enemies, he hears his critics saying, “God will not deliver him”—and David seems to be thinking that maybe they’re right. Maybe God won’t save him this time.

Sounds like a strange prayer from a man after God’s own heart, doesn’t it? So tell me: Is David sinning in these first two verses? Is it a sin for him to be afraid, to wonder if the pessimists around him are right? I don’t think so. But his perspective needs to turn. His faith in God needs to be strengthened. You could even say David needs to repent.

That may seem like an odd choice of words. But you see, most of us have a very narrow understanding of repentance. We may tend to toss up a prayer that sounds something like this: “Lord, I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Forgive me! Forgive me! Forgive me! In Jesus’ name, amen!” Well, nice try … but that’s not repentance.

The word “repent” means to change your mind, and it always leads to a change in your behavior. So, whenever you think of the word “repent,” immediately think, “change.” True repentance involves a change in your thinking. A change in your priorities. A change in your decision-making. And that adds up to a change in your behavior. To say it another way, repentance is a turning. When we repent, our thoughts turn from something old to something new. As a result, our behavior turns from one course of action to another. That’s why I like to describe repentance as a spiritual U-turn. Repentance is a 180 – a spiritual U-turn that always includes a turning FROM and a turning TO.

Now, let’s get back to David. As he prays in Psalm 3, notice the change that happens in verses 3 and 4: “But you, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and he answers me from his holy mountain.”

Do you see how prayer changes David? He goes to God with his finite thoughts and his finite ways, then takes hold of God’s higher thoughts and God’s higher ways, and it’s absolutely transformational. In the words given to us through the prophet Isaiah: “’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” 

You see, true repentance arises from a deep-seated conviction that God’s thoughts are always higher than our thoughts, and His ways are always higher than our ways. So, from a broader perspective, repentance is not just for the times when we sin and turn to God for forgiveness. As we go to God in prayer, whether or not there is unconfessed sin in our lives, repentance is a re-aligning of our priorities with God’s priorities, a re-aligning of our ways with God’s ways. And isn’t this, in a very real sense, the heart of prayer?

There are certain things God will not do unless we pray for Him to do them. So our prayers do move God, and prayers do change God’s actions. But even more so, prayer changes US. We go into prayer thinking one way, and we should leave prayer thinking another. Effective prayer changes our thoughts. We go into prayer behaving a certain way, and we should leave prayer behaving differently. Effective prayer changes our behavior.

Prayer changed David. And it will change you, too, if you are absolutely convinced the God’s thoughts are higher than your thoughts, and His ways are higher than yours. So, go to Him humbly in prayer. Confess your sins to him. Grieve over your sin, and turn. If you are ready for God to change you, He will change you … for the better. That’s a promise.

Dane Davis is the Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit  and join us for worship Sundays at 10 am.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Power of Praise

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

These verses from 1 Thessalonians are three of the shortest in the New Testament. But they hold an important key to unlocking the door of life-changing prayer. Whether our circumstances are good, bad or ugly, God calls us to give thanks. And as we work to strengthen our prayer lives in this new year, I’d like to share three reasons praise is so powerful.

#1: Praise helps us fulfill our destiny. Did you know that God created you to praise Him? It’s true. To quote the wise philosopher Darth Vader, “It is … your destiny.” Praise is one of the main purposes for which you were created. The Bible tells us that creation itself praises God: “The wild animals honor Me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:20a). If even wild animals can honor God in their own wordless way, we have so much more reason to do so! “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9).

Why did God choose us to be saved, bring us into His holy nation and into His eternal family? There were several reasons, but don’t miss this one: God saved us so that we can truly praise Him in a way that we could never praise Him before we were saved. And so, when we who are followers of Christ withhold our praises from God, we are forsaking one of the main reasons He saved us. Let’s don’t squander this privilege.

#2: Praise is a weapon to break spiritual strongholds outside us. Maybe you’ve never thought of praise as a weapon. But it can be a very powerful one. Look at what happened in Acts 16, when Paul and Silas were praising God in the Philippian jail after being stripped, beaten and fastened into stocks. As they were praying and singing hymns to God, “Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose” (Acts 16:26).

There is power in praise. Spiritual strongholds outside us can be broken through praise and thanks. When everyone in your family is down in the dumps, there is power in praising God. Your praise can transform their doom-and-gloom perspectives. When you have a close encounter with pessimists who can only see the negative in their circumstances, your praise can help them see the silver lining. And when you’re in church, you never know how many people around you may be uplifted, encouraged and even set free by your praise.

#3: Praise is a weapon to break spiritual strongholds inside us. Your praise can not only transform others – it can also transform you. In 2 Chronicles, King Jehoshaphat learned that three enemy nations had merged their armies and were marching toward Jerusalem. This combined army was massive, so when Jehoshaphat found out about it he was terrified. But instead of panicking, he started praising—and called his men to do the same. “After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise Him for the splendor of His holiness as they went out at the head of the army saying: ‘Give thanks to the LORD, for His love endures forever’” (2 Chronicles 6:21). The result? God set ambushes that caused the three armies to turn on each other. When Jehoshaphat and his men arrived at the scene, they found nothing but dead bodies.

Isn’t that awesome? As God’s people sang and praised God their own fears were calmed, their own anxieties were quieted, and their faith was emboldened. As an added bonus, as the people praised God, God’s Spirit was catapulted onto the battlefield, and He won the victory without His own people having to raise a single sword. Without a doubt, praise is a powerful weapon to break strongholds outside us AND to break strongholds inside us. So, whether you’re dealing with internal strongholds of fear, anxiety, anger, lust, jealousy or unforgiveness—whatever it is—praising God for who He is and thanking Him for what He’s done can transform you from the inside out.

Maybe you’re facing some impossible circumstance. You’ve tried EVERYTHING to fix it, and nothing has worked. Well, could it be that the Lord is whispering in your ear: “You haven’t tried everything. You haven’t tried praise. You haven’t praised Me in the midst of your storm. You haven’t thanked Me for your lousy circumstances. You haven’t released your circumstances to Me and trusted Me to handle them. So, start praising Me! Start thanking Me! Start trusting Me! And just watch what I will do.”

Dane Davis is the Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit  and join us for worship Sundays at 10 am.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Four Steps to a Better Prayer

“This, then, is how you should pray.” – Matthew 6:9a

It was a little over 18 years ago. I had been a pastor for only a month or two, and I remember saying to myself, “Dane, what were you thinking when you took this job?”

I didn’t say that because I wanted to jump ship. This church was great. But the reality had hit me: I was 25 years old, trying to teach God’s word to a group of people, most of whom were older than myself. And many of them had been Christians twice as long as I’d been alive! How could I possibly teach them anything?

Good question. And God gave me an even better answer: “No matter how old someone is in the church, I am much older. And no matter how wise someone is in the Church, My Word is wiser. So if you stick to prayerfully teaching My powerful word, your age will be irrelevant.”  What a marvelous insight that was to this young, insecure pastor. And it was during that early season of ministry that God taught me to pray—really pray. Learning to lean on God through prayer helped me do a task that was far too big and far too hard for me to do on my own. As a bonus, my relationship with God became much closer and more meaningful.

Do you long for that? Do you want to partner with God to do things that you could never accomplish on your own? Do you want your relationship with Christ to be closer than it’s ever been? Well, prayer is the key.

Not sure how to pray? Just take a look at Jesus’ prayer in Matthew 6:5-15. It’s usually called “The Lord’s Prayer,” but a more fitting name for it would be “The Disciples’ Prayer,” since Jesus gave it to us as an example to follow. And there’s a simple recipe based on this prayer that you can use right away to make your personal prayer times more enjoyable and more impactful. It’s easy to remember because it’s spelled out in four little letters: P-R-A-Y.

The “P” in PRAY stands for PRAISE. We all have times when we’re in crisis and don’t have time to pray anything but “God, help! Help!” But as a rule of thumb, just as The Lord’s Prayer begins with praise and adoration, so too should our prayers. Before we get into the “Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!” petitions within our prayers, we should spend some time praising God for who He is and thanking Him for what He’s done.        

The “R” in PRAY stands for REPENT. Honestly, confession and repentance are almost non-existent in our prayers. When we DO remember to ask for forgiveness, we say something very short and vague like, “Lord, forgive us for the things we did today that made your heart sad.” Well, that’s a start. But if our personal prayer times are going to be more powerful, we can’t be vague or half-hearted when bringing our sins to God. He takes our sins very seriously, and so should we. We know that in Christ, our sins are forgiven. But that’s beside the point. As we talk with God, we should grieve for our sins—our foul language, our bad tempers, our lustful thoughts, our lack of love and respect to our spouses—in order to truly repent.

The “A” in PRAY stands for ASK. Most of us are pretty good at asking. But we don’t always remember to think about the needs of those around us. So, let me suggest to you that you incorporate three kinds of asking into your prayers: 1) Ask for your church; 2) Ask for your community; 3) Ask for your family and yourself.

The “Y” in PRAY stands for YIELD. In the Garden of Gethsemene, when Jesus knew that his arrest and beating and crucifixion were just minutes away, he cried out in prayer, “Father, let this cup pass from me! But not my will, but Yours be done.” In the same spirit, Jesus teaches us in the Lord’s Prayer to ask, “Your will be done.”

Praise, Repent, Ask, Yield: Four critical pieces to the prayer puzzle. You don’t need to be eloquent; you don’t need to have the perfect words. God’s idea of a “good” prayer is much different from ours. God isn’t impressed by longwinded prayers filled with flowery language and religious jargon. He is drawn to the humble, simple prayers of His followers who come to Him in their helplessness with hearts drawn to His. So, just go to God and talk with Him with your own unique voice in your own unique way. And as you talk with Him, praise Him, repent of your sin, ask Him to meet needs, and yield to His will. That’s it! That’s prayer.

Dane Davis is the Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville. For more information,
visit  and join us for worship Sundays at 10 am.