“‘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
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.
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
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.
“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.”
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.’”
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?
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.
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,
“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
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).
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.
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,
“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
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
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
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
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.”
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
Dane Davis is the Pastor of First Christian Church in Victorville.
For more information,