18 OCT: PRAY CONTINUOUSLY

Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:16

READ 1 ThessaloniANS 5:12–28

Joie started the children’s program with prayer, then sang with the kids. Six-year-old Emmanuel squirmed in his seat when she prayed again after introducing Aaron, the teacher. Then Aaron began and ended his talk with prayer. Emmanuel complained: “That’s four prayers! I can’t sit still that long!”

If you think Emmanuel’s challenge is difficult, look at 1 Thessalonians 5:17: “Pray continually” or always be in a spirit of prayer. Even some of us adults can find prayer to be boring. Maybe that’s because we don’t know what to say or don’t understand that prayer is a conversation with our Father.

Back in the seventeenth century, François Fénelon wrote some words about prayer that have helped me: “Tell God all that is in your heart, as one unloads one’s heart, its pleasures and its pains, to a dear friend. Tell Him your troubles, that He may comfort you; tell Him your joys, that He may sober them; tell Him your longings, that He may purify them.” He continued, “Talk to Him of your temptations, that He may shield you from them: show Him the wounds of your heart, that He may heal them . . . . If you thus pour out all your weaknesses, needs, troubles, there will be no lack of what to say.”

May we grow in our intimacy with God so that we will want to spend more time with Him.

Reflect & Pray

For further study, read about Jesus’s example of prayer in John 17 and Luke 5:16.

Prayer is an intimate conversation with our God.

17 OCT: NEED FOR ENCOURAGEMENT

We . . . urge you . . . to do this more and more. 1 Thessalonians 4:1

READ 1 Thessalonians 4:1–12

Young Ochao loves to read. If he reads more books than what is required at school, he receives an award certificate. That bit of encouragement motivates him to keep up the good work.

When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians he motivated them not with an award but with words of encouragement. He said, “Brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more” (1 Thessalonians 4:1). These Christians were pleasing God through their lives, and Paul encouraged them to continue to live more and more for Him.

Maybe today you and I are giving our best to know and love and please our Father. Let’s take Paul’s words as an incentive to continue on in our faith.

But let’s go one step further. Who might we encourage today with Paul’s words? Does someone come to mind who is diligent in following the Lord and seeking to please Him? Write a note or make a phone call and urge this person to keep on in their faith journey with Him. What you say may be just what they need to continue following and serving Jesus.

Reflect & Pray

Dear Lord, thank You for encouraging me through Your Word to keep living for You.

Encourage someone today to keep living for God.

16 OCT: ONLY GOD IS WORTHY

I call to you, because you answer me. Psalm 86:7

READ Psalm 86:1–13

Cade Pope, a 12-year-old boy from Oklahoma, mailed out 32 handwritten letters—one to each executive in charge of a National Football League (NFL) team in the US. Cade wrote, “My family and I love football. We play fantasy football and watch [the] games every weekend. . . . I am ready to pick an NFL team to cheer on for a lifetime!”

Jerry Richardson, owner of the Carolina Panthers football team, responded with a handwritten note of his own. The first line read: “We would be honored if our [team] became your team. We would make you proud.” Richardson went on to commend some of his players. His letter was not only personal and kindhearted—it was the only response that Cade received. Not surprisingly, Cade became a loyal fan of the Carolina Panthers.

In Psalm 86, David spoke about his allegiance to the one true God. He said, “When I am in distress, I call to you, because you answer me. Among the gods there is none like you, Lord” (verses 7–8). Our devotion to God is born from His character and His care for us. He is the one who answers our prayers, guides us by His Spirit, and saves us through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. He deserves our lifelong loyalty.

Reflect & Pray

Dear God, there is no one like You. Help me to consider Your holiness and let it lead me into deeper devotion to You.

Only God is worthy of our adoration and devotion.

15 OCT: SACRIFICIAL LOVE

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. John 10:11

READ 1 John 3:16–17

Lawrence love birds, which is why he bought six caged birds and carried them home to his daughter Alice, who began to care for them daily. Then one of the birds fell ill and died. They wondered if the birds would be more likely to thrive if they were not caged. So they freed the surviving five and observed them fly away in jubilation.

Alice then pointed out, “Do you realize, Daddy, that it was the death of one bird that caused us to free the rest?”

Isn’t that what the Lord Jesus did for us? Just as one man’s sin (Adam’s) brought condemnation to the world, so one Man’s righteousness (Jesus’s) brought salvation to those who believe (Romans 5:12–19). Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

John makes it more practical when he says, “Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters” (1 John 3:16). This won’t likely mean literal death, but as we align our lives with Jesus’s example of sacrificial love, we find that we are “laying down our lives.” For instance, we might choose to deprive ourselves of material goods in order to share them with others (verse 17) or make time to be with someone who needs comfort and companionship.

Who do you need to sacrifice for today?

Reflect & Pray

In what ways have others sacrificed for your well-being?

Christ’s ultimate sacrifice for us motivates us to sacrifice ourselves for others.

14 OCT: WELCOMED TO EVERYONE

I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. Luke 5:32

READ Luke 5:27–32

The much-prayed-for film night at the church youth club had finally arrived. Posters had been displayed all around the village and pizzas were warming in the oven. Steve, the youth pastor, hoped that the film—about gang members in New York who were brought face-to-face with the claims of Jesus by a young pastor—would bring new recruits to the club.

But he hadn’t realized that a key football match was being shown on television that evening, so attendance was much smaller than he had hoped for. Sighing inwardly, he was about to dim the lights and begin the film when five leather-clad members of the local motorbike club came in. Steve went pale.

The leader of the group, who was known as TDog, nodded in Steve’s direction. “It’s free and for everyone, right?” he said. Steve opened his mouth to say, “Youth club members only” when TDog bent down and picked up a bracelet with the letters WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) stamped on it. “This yours, mate?” he asked. Steve nodded, hot with embarrassment, and waited while the new guests found a seat.

Have you ever been in Steve’s situation? You long to share the good news about Jesus, but you have a mental list of the “right” people who would be acceptable? Jesus was often criticized by the religious authorities for the company He kept. But He welcomed those everyone else avoided, because He knew they needed Him most (Luke 5:31–32).

Reflect & Pray

Lord, please help me to see people through Your eyes of love and to welcome all those You bring into my life.

A heart that is open to Christ will be open to those He loves.