Pray and Believe: 1

‘Pray without ceasing.’ 1 Thessalonians 5:17

The Bible tells us to pray continually and faithfully. George Müller was a nineteenth century evangelist who had a list of five people he really, really, really wanted to come to know Jesus. So he prayed for them and, eventually, after five years, the first man gave his life to Christ. Müller kept praying and, after ten years, the second and third became Christians and turned over their lives to God. Müller continued and, after twenty-five years, the fourth man made a decision to follow Jesus. But Müller never got to see the conversion of the fifth man, even though he prayed for him for a whopping 52 years! In fact, the man only made a profession of faith in Christ a few months after Müller’s funeral.

Imagine praying for something for 52 years without any sign of an answer. Most of us find it hard to pray for 52 hours for something we’re totally passionate about! But listen to Müller’s own words: ‘God delights to increase the faith of His children. We ought, instead of wanting no trials before victory, no exercise for patience, to be willing to take them from God’s hands as a means. Trials, obstacles, difficulties, and sometimes defeats, are the very food of faith.’

If you’re praying and asking God to help, His answer is, ‘I will!’ Psalm 91:15 NLT tells us, ‘When they call on Me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honour them.’

And in Jeremiah 33:3 NKJV, God says, ‘Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.’ So, for however long it takes, keep on praying and keep on believing.

SoulFood: Is 49–52, Matt 12:1–14, Ps 107:33–43, Pr 3:27–28

word4today an adaptation of The Word For Today is authored by Bob and Debby Gass and published under licence from UCB International Copyright © 2021

Today’s Readings

Isaiah 49–52 ()

()

49:1   Listen to me, O coastlands,
    and give attention, you peoples from afar.
  The LORD called me from the womb,
    from the body of my mother he named my name.
  He made my mouth like a sharp sword;
    in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
  he made me a polished arrow;
    in his quiver he hid me away.
  And he said to me, “You are my servant,
    Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”
  But I said, “I have labored in vain;
    I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;
  yet surely my right is with the LORD,
    and my recompense with my God.”
  And now the LORD says,
    he who formed me from the womb to be his servant,
  to bring Jacob back to him;
    and that Israel might be gathered to him—
  for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD,
    and my God has become my strength—
  he says:
  “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
    to raise up the tribes of Jacob
    and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
  I will make you as a light for the nations,
    that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
  Thus says the LORD,
    the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One,
  to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nation,
    the servant of rulers:
  “Kings shall see and arise;
    princes, and they shall prostrate themselves;
  because of the LORD, who is faithful,
    the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.”

  Thus says the LORD:
  “In a time of favor I have answered you;
    in a day of salvation I have helped you;
  I will keep you and give you
    as a covenant to the people,
  to establish the land,
    to apportion the desolate heritages,
  saying to the prisoners, ‘Come out,’
    to those who are in darkness, ‘Appear.’
  They shall feed along the ways;
    on all bare heights shall be their pasture;
10   they shall not hunger or thirst,
    neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them,
  for he who has pity on them will lead them,
    and by springs of water will guide them.
11   And I will make all my mountains a road,
    and my highways shall be raised up.
12   Behold, these shall come from afar,
    and behold, these from the north and from the west,
    and these from the land of Syene.”
13   Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth;
    break forth, O mountains, into singing!
  For the LORD has comforted his people
    and will have compassion on his afflicted.
14   But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me;
    my Lord has forgotten me.”
15   “Can a woman forget her nursing child,
    that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?
  Even these may forget,
    yet I will not forget you.
16   Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
    your walls are continually before me.
17   Your builders make haste;
    your destroyers and those who laid you waste go out from you.
18   Lift up your eyes around and see;
    they all gather, they come to you.
  As I live, declares the LORD,
    you shall put them all on as an ornament;
    you shall bind them on as a bride does.
19   “Surely your waste and your desolate places
    and your devastated land—
  surely now you will be too narrow for your inhabitants,
    and those who swallowed you up will be far away.
20   The children of your bereavement
    will yet say in your ears:
  ‘The place is too narrow for me;
    make room for me to dwell in.’
21   Then you will say in your heart:
    ‘Who has borne me these?
  I was bereaved and barren,
    exiled and put away,
    but who has brought up these?
  Behold, I was left alone;
    from where have these come?’”
22   Thus says the Lord GOD:
  “Behold, I will lift up my hand to the nations,
    and raise my signal to the peoples;
  and they shall bring your sons in their arms,
    and your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders.
23   Kings shall be your foster fathers,
    and their queens your nursing mothers.
  With their faces to the ground they shall bow down to you,
    and lick the dust of your feet.
  Then you will know that I am the LORD;
    those who wait for me shall not be put to shame.”
24   Can the prey be taken from the mighty,
    or the captives of a tyrant be rescued?
25   For thus says the LORD:
  “Even the captives of the mighty shall be taken,
    and the prey of the tyrant be rescued,
  for I will contend with those who contend with you,
    and I will save your children.
26   I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh,
    and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with wine.
  Then all flesh shall know
    that I am the LORD your Savior,
    and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”

50:1   Thus says the LORD:
  “Where is your mother’s certificate of divorce,
    with which I sent her away?
  Or which of my creditors is it
    to whom I have sold you?
  Behold, for your iniquities you were sold,
    and for your transgressions your mother was sent away.
  Why, when I came, was there no man;
    why, when I called, was there no one to answer?
  Is my hand shortened, that it cannot redeem?
    Or have I no power to deliver?
  Behold, by my rebuke I dry up the sea,
    I make the rivers a desert;
  their fish stink for lack of water
    and die of thirst.
  I clothe the heavens with blackness
    and make sackcloth their covering.”
  The Lord GOD has given me
    the tongue of those who are taught,
  that I may know how to sustain with a word
    him who is weary.
  Morning by morning he awakens;
    he awakens my ear
    to hear as those who are taught.
  The Lord GOD has opened my ear,
    and I was not rebellious;
    I turned not backward.
  I gave my back to those who strike,
    and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard;
  I hid not my face
    from disgrace and spitting.
  But the Lord GOD helps me;
    therefore I have not been disgraced;
  therefore I have set my face like a flint,
    and I know that I shall not be put to shame.
    He who vindicates me is near.
  Who will contend with me?
    Let us stand up together.
  Who is my adversary?
    Let him come near to me.
  Behold, the Lord GOD helps me;
    who will declare me guilty?
  Behold, all of them will wear out like a garment;
    the moth will eat them up.
10   Who among you fears the LORD
    and obeys the voice of his servant?
  Let him who walks in darkness
    and has no light
  trust in the name of the LORD
    and rely on his God.
11   Behold, all you who kindle a fire,
    who equip yourselves with burning torches!
  Walk by the light of your fire,
    and by the torches that you have kindled!
  This you have from my hand:
    you shall lie down in torment.

51:1   “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness,
    you who seek the LORD:
  look to the rock from which you were hewn,
    and to the quarry from which you were dug.
  Look to Abraham your father
    and to Sarah who bore you;
  for he was but one when I called him,
    that I might bless him and multiply him.
  For the LORD comforts Zion;
    he comforts all her waste places
  and makes her wilderness like Eden,
    her desert like the garden of the LORD;
  joy and gladness will be found in her,
    thanksgiving and the voice of song.
  “Give attention to me, my people,
    and give ear to me, my nation;
  for a law will go out from me,
    and I will set my justice for a light to the peoples.
  My righteousness draws near,
    my salvation has gone out,
    and my arms will judge the peoples;
  the coastlands hope for me,
    and for my arm they wait.
  Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
    and look at the earth beneath;
  for the heavens vanish like smoke,
    the earth will wear out like a garment,
    and they who dwell in it will die in like manner;
  but my salvation will be forever,
    and my righteousness will never be dismayed.
  “Listen to me, you who know righteousness,
    the people in whose heart is my law;
  fear not the reproach of man,
    nor be dismayed at their revilings.
  For the moth will eat them up like a garment,
    and the worm will eat them like wool,
  but my righteousness will be forever,
    and my salvation to all generations.”
  Awake, awake, put on strength,
    O arm of the LORD;
  awake, as in days of old,
    the generations of long ago.
  Was it not you who cut Rahab in pieces,
    who pierced the dragon?
10   Was it not you who dried up the sea,
    the waters of the great deep,
  who made the depths of the sea a way
    for the redeemed to pass over?
11   And the ransomed of the LORD shall return
    and come to Zion with singing;
  everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
    they shall obtain gladness and joy,
    and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.
12   “I, I am he who comforts you;
    who are you that you are afraid of man who dies,
    of the son of man who is made like grass,
13   and have forgotten the LORD, your Maker,
    who stretched out the heavens
    and laid the foundations of the earth,
  and you fear continually all the day
    because of the wrath of the oppressor,
  when he sets himself to destroy?
    And where is the wrath of the oppressor?
14   He who is bowed down shall speedily be released;
    he shall not die and go down to the pit,
    neither shall his bread be lacking.
15   I am the LORD your God,
    who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—
    the LORD of hosts is his name.
16   And I have put my words in your mouth
    and covered you in the shadow of my hand,
  establishing the heavens
    and laying the foundations of the earth,
    and saying to Zion, ‘You are my people.’”
17   Wake yourself, wake yourself,
    stand up, O Jerusalem,
  you who have drunk from the hand of the LORD
    the cup of his wrath,
  who have drunk to the dregs
    the bowl, the cup of staggering.
18   There is none to guide her
    among all the sons she has borne;
  there is none to take her by the hand
    among all the sons she has brought up.
19   These two things have happened to you—
    who will console you?—
  devastation and destruction, famine and sword;
    who will comfort you?
20   Your sons have fainted;
    they lie at the head of every street
    like an antelope in a net;
  they are full of the wrath of the LORD,
    the rebuke of your God.
21   Therefore hear this, you who are afflicted,
    who are drunk, but not with wine:
22   Thus says your Lord, the LORD,
    your God who pleads the cause of his people:
  “Behold, I have taken from your hand the cup of staggering;
  the bowl of my wrath you shall drink no more;
23   and I will put it into the hand of your tormentors,
    who have said to you,
    ‘Bow down, that we may pass over’;
  and you have made your back like the ground
    and like the street for them to pass over.”

52:1   Awake, awake,
    put on your strength, O Zion;
  put on your beautiful garments,
    O Jerusalem, the holy city;
  for there shall no more come into you
    the uncircumcised and the unclean.
  Shake yourself from the dust and arise;
    be seated, O Jerusalem;
  loose the bonds from your neck,
    O captive daughter of Zion.

For thus says the LORD: “You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money.” For thus says the Lord GOD: “My people went down at the first into Egypt to sojourn there, and the Assyrian oppressed them for nothing. Now therefore what have I here,” declares the LORD, “seeing that my people are taken away for nothing? Their rulers wail,” declares the LORD, “and continually all the day my name is despised. Therefore my people shall know my name. Therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here I am.”

  How beautiful upon the mountains
    are the feet of him who brings good news,
  who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness,
    who publishes salvation,
    who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.”
  The voice of your watchmen—they lift up their voice;
    together they sing for joy;
  for eye to eye they see
    the return of the LORD to Zion.
  Break forth together into singing,
    you waste places of Jerusalem,
  for the LORD has comforted his people;
    he has redeemed Jerusalem.
10   The LORD has bared his holy arm
    before the eyes of all the nations,
  and all the ends of the earth shall see
    the salvation of our God.
11   Depart, depart, go out from there;
    touch no unclean thing;
  go out from the midst of her; purify yourselves,
    you who bear the vessels of the LORD.
12   For you shall not go out in haste,
    and you shall not go in flight,
  for the LORD will go before you,
    and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.

13   Behold, my servant shall act wisely;
    he shall be high and lifted up,
    and shall be exalted.
14   As many were astonished at you—
    his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance,
    and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—
15   so shall he sprinkle many nations.
    Kings shall shut their mouths because of him,
  for that which has not been told them they see,
    and that which they have not heard they understand.

Matthew 12:1–14 ()

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12:1 At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry, and they began to pluck heads of grain and to eat. But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to him, “Look, your disciples are doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath.” He said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he was hungry, and those who were with him: how he entered the house of God and ate the bread of the Presence, which it was not lawful for him to eat nor for those who were with him, but only for the priests? Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.”

He went on from there and entered their synagogue. 10 And a man was there with a withered hand. And they asked him, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?”—so that they might accuse him. 11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. 14 But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

Psalm 107:33–43 ()

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33   He turns rivers into a desert,
    springs of water into thirsty ground,
34   a fruitful land into a salty waste,
    because of the evil of its inhabitants.
35   He turns a desert into pools of water,
    a parched land into springs of water.
36   And there he lets the hungry dwell,
    and they establish a city to live in;
37   they sow fields and plant vineyards
    and get a fruitful yield.
38   By his blessing they multiply greatly,
    and he does not let their livestock diminish.
39   When they are diminished and brought low
    through oppression, evil, and sorrow,
40   he pours contempt on princes
    and makes them wander in trackless wastes;
41   but he raises up the needy out of affliction
    and makes their families like flocks.
42   The upright see it and are glad,
    and all wickedness shuts its mouth.
43   Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things;
    let them consider the steadfast love of the LORD.

Proverbs 3:27–28 ()

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27   Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,
    when it is in your power to do it.
28   Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again,
    tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.

Tue 02 February, 2021


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