“Our Father who art in heaven” (Matt. 6:9).

Prayer begins with the recognition that God is your Father and has the resources to meet your needs.

The term Father is one of the most commonly used terms in our prayers, and rightly so because that’s how Jesus taught us to pray. But as common as that term is to us, it was very uncommon to the people of Christ’s day.

Then, most of the people who worshiped false gods thought of them as distant, capricious, and immoral beings that were to be feared. Even the Jewish people, who should have understood the fatherhood of God, had removed themselves from His Fatherly care through their sin and apostasy. Consequently He seemed remote to them. Even some who did claim God as their Father were rebuked by Christ, who called them children of the devil because they rejected the Son (John 8:44).

Against that backdrop, Christ’s teaching was revolutionary. He proclaimed God as a caring and gracious Father who desires intimate fellowship with His children. That fellowship can come only through faith in the Son.

Beyond that, Jesus revealed the Father’s character in everything He said and did. When Philip asked Jesus to show him the Father, Jesus replied, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

Jesus also proclaimed God as a Father who has all the treasures of heaven at His disposal and who makes them available to His children so they might glorify Him: “Your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him. . . . Do not be anxious then . . . but seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all [you need] will be added to you” (Matt. 6:8, 31, 33).

Your faith in Christ is what makes God your Heavenly Father. He loves you, listens to your prayers, and supplies your needs according to His abundant resources. Look to Him today and live as a thankful, obedient child.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God that He is your gracious and loving Father.
  • Praise Him for the abundant blessings He gives to you.

For Further Study

  • Read Proverbs 3:5-6 and Matthew 7:7-11.
  • What are you exhorted to do?
  • What specifically will God do for you?
  • How should those passages affect your relationship with God?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments. . . . righteousness belongs to Thee. . . . To the Lord our God belong compassion and forgiveness” (Dan. 9:4, 7, 9).

God’s attributes authenticate your prayers.

Prior to the Babylonian Captivity God had warned His people not to adopt the idolatrous ways of their captors. Their gods were idols that could neither hear nor deliver them from distress (Isa. 46:6-7).

In marked contrast, our God loves us and delivers us from evil. When we confess our sins and intercede for others, He hears and responds. In Isaiah 45:21-22 He says, “There is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none except Me. Turn to Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.”

In his prayer Daniel mentions several attributes of God that have a direct bearing on answered prayer. In verse 4 he calls Him “the great and awesome God.” That speaks of His power and majesty. You can pray with confidence because God is powerful enough to change your circumstances when it serves His purposes.

God’s faithfulness is reflected in the phrase “who keeps His covenant” (v. 4). He always keeps His promises. He made a covenant with Israel that if they repented He would forgive them (Deut. 30:1-3). He promised never to forsake them (Deut. 31:6; cf. Heb. 13:5).

God’s love is seen in His acts of mercy toward those who love Him (v. 4). His justice and holiness are inherent in the phrase “righteousness belongs to Thee” (v. 7). God’s actions are always loving and righteous. He never makes a mistake (Gen. 18:25).

Verse 9 mentions two final attributes: compassion and forgiveness. Compassion is a synonym for mercy. Forgiveness means He pardons your wrongdoings by canceling the penalty sin has charged to your account. He reconciles you to Himself in sweet communion.

What a gracious God we serve! Rejoice in His love and lean on His promises. He will never fail you.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Praise God for His attributes of power, majesty, faithfulness, love, holiness, compassion, and forgiveness.

For Further Study

  • Read Isaiah 44 which contains a stern warning for Israel to avoid the idolatry of Babylon during the Babylonian Captivity.
  • What promises did God make to Israel?
  • How did God characterize idolaters?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“JOYOUSLY GIVING THANKS TO THE FATHER” (COL. 1:11-12).

Joyous thanksgiving acknowledges God as the giver of every good gift.

The inseparable link between joy and thanksgiving was a common theme for Paul. In Philippians 4:4-6 he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! . . . Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” He told the Thessalonians to “rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:16- 18).

As often as Paul expressed thanks and encouraged others to express theirs, he was careful never to attribute to men the thanks due to God alone. For example in Romans 1:8 he says, “I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.” He thanked God, not the Roman believers, because he knew that faith is a gift from God.

That doesn’t mean you can’t thank others for the kindnesses they show, but in doing so you must understand that they are instruments of God’s grace.

Thanking Him shows humility and acknowledges His rightful place as the Sovereign Lord and the giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). Those who reject His lordship and refuse to give Him thanks incur His wrath (Rom. 1:21).

Only those who love Christ can truly give thanks because He is the channel through which thanks is expressed to the Father. As Paul says in Colossians 3:17, “Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.” Hebrews 13:15 adds, “Through [Christ] then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.”

As one who is privileged to know the God of all grace, be generous in your praise and thanksgiving today. See everything as a gift from His hand for your joy and edification.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Recite Psalm 136 as a prayer of praise to God.

For Further Study

  • From Psalm 136 list the things that prompted the psalmist’s thanksgiving. How can that psalm serve as a model for your own praise?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“WE HAVE NOT CEASED TO PRAY FOR YOU AND TO ASK THAT YOU MAY BE FILLED WITH THE KNOWLEDGE OF HIS WILL IN ALL SPIRITUAL WISDOM AND UNDERSTANDING” (COL. 1:9).

Godly living results from being controlled by the principles of God’s Word.

Paul’s prayer for the Philippians (Phil. 1:9-11) is closely paralleled by his prayer for the Colossians (Col. 1:9-12). Both epistles were written from the same Roman prison at about the same time in Paul’s life. Both prayers focus on godly living, but each approaches it from a slightly different perspective.

The Philippians were gracious people who needed to exercise greater knowledge and discernment in their love. The Colossians also were gracious but their devotion to Christ was being challenged by heretics who taught that Christ is insufficient for salvation and godly living. True spirituality, the false teachers said, is found in Christ plus human philosophy, religious legalism, mysticism, or asceticism. Paul encouraged the Colossian believers and refuted the false teachers by showing the utter sufficiency of Christ.

At the outset of his prayer Paul stressed the importance of being controlled by the knowledge of God’s will (which is revealed in His Word). That’s the meaning of the Greek word translated “filled” in verse 9. “Knowledge” translates a word that speaks of a deep, penetrating knowledge that results in behavioral change. “Spiritual wisdom and understanding” refers to knowledge that cannot be known through human reasoning or philosophy. It is imparted by the Holy Spirit Himself.

In effect Paul was saying, “I pray that you will be continually controlled by the life-transforming knowledge of God’s will, which the Holy Spirit imparts as you prayerfully study and meditate on God’s Word.”

Scripture supplies the principles you need to live a godly life. The Spirit gives you the power to do so. Many false teachers will try to divert you from the simplicity of devotion to Christ by offering you philosophy, psychology, and a myriad of other hopeless alternatives. Don’t be victimized. In Christ you have everything you need!

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Thank God for His all-sufficient Son and for the resources that are yours in Him.
  • Ask for wisdom to apply those resources to every situation you face today.

For Further Study

  • Read Colossians 1:15—2:23.
  • What was Christ’s role in creation?
  • What was Paul’s goal as a minister?
  • What warnings and commands did Paul give?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“I HAVE LEARNED TO BE CONTENT IN WHATEVER CIRCUMSTANCES I AM” (PHIL. 4:11).

Discontent and ingratitude will steal your joy.

True joy is God’s gift to every believer, yet many Christians seem to lack it. How can that be? Did God fail them? No. As with peace, assurance, and other benefits of salvation, joy can be forfeited for many reasons: willful sin, prayerlessness, fear, self-centeredness, focusing on circumstances, and lack of forgiveness are the main culprits.

Two of the most common joy-thieves are dissatisfaction and ingratitude. Both are by-products of the health, wealth, and prosperity mentality of our day. It has produced a generation of Christians who are more dissatisfied than ever because their demands and expectations are higher than ever. They’ve lost their perspective on God’s sovereignty and have therefore lost the ability to give thanks in all things.

In marked contrast, when Jesus taught about contentment and anxiety (Matt. 6:25-34), He spoke of food and clothing—the basic necessities of life. But preferences, not necessities, are the issue with us. We’re into style, personal appearance, job satisfaction, earning power, bigger homes, and newer cars. In the name of greater faith we even demand that God supply more miracles, more wealth, and more power.

Amid all that, Paul’s words sound a refreshing note of assurance and rebuke: “I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Phil. 4:11). He made no demands on God but simply trusted in His gracious provision. Whether he received little or much made no difference to him. In either case he was satisfied and thankful.

Don’t be victimized by the spirit of our age. See God’s blessings for what they are and continually praise Him for His goodness. In doing so you will guard your heart from dissatisfaction and ingratitude. More important, you will bring joy to the One who is worthy of all praise.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Pray that the Holy Spirit will produce in you a joy and contentment that transcends your circumstances.
  • Make it a daily practice to thank God for specific blessings and trials, knowing that He uses both to perfect His will in you.

For Further Study

  • Read 1 Kings 18:1—19:8.
  • How did Elijah deal with the false prophets of Baal?
  • How did he deal with Jezebel’s threat?
  • What caused Elijah’s shift from a spiritual high to a spiritual low?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“I THANK MY GOD IN ALL MY REMEMBRANCE OF YOU” (PHIL. 1:3).

A key to Christian joy is to recall the goodness of others.

Though Paul was under house arrest in Rome when he wrote to the Philippians, his mind wasn’t bound. Often he reflected on his experiences with the Philippian Christians. As he did, his thoughts turned to prayers of praise and thanksgiving for all that the Lord had done through them.

I’m sure Paul remembered when he preached in Philippi and God opened Lydia’s heart to believe the gospel (Acts 16:13-14). Subsequently everyone in her household was saved (v. 15). Surely her kindness and hospitality were bright spots in an otherwise stormy stay at Philippi.

He must also have remembered the demon-possessed girl whom the Lord delivered from spiritual bondage (v. 18), and the Philippian jailer, who threw Paul and Silas into prison after they had been beaten severely (vv. 23-24). Perhaps the girl became part of the Philippian church—the text doesn’t say. We do know that the jailer and his whole household were saved, after which they showed kindness to Paul and Silas by tending to their wounds and feeding them (vv. 30-34).

The many financial gifts that the Philippians sent to Paul were also fond memories for him because they were given out of love and concern. That was true of their present gift as well, which was delivered by Epaphroditus and went far beyond Paul’s need (Phil. 4:18).

Paul’s gratitude illustrates that Christian joy is enhanced by your ability to recall the goodness of others. A corollary is your ability to forgive shortcomings and unkindnesses. That goes against the grain of our “don’t get mad—get even” society but is perfectly consistent with the compassion and forgiveness God has shown you. Therefore be quick to forgive evil and slow to forget good.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Take time to reflect on some people who have shown kindness to you and encouraged you in your Christian walk. Thank God for them. If possible, call them or drop them a note of thanks. Assure them of your prayers, as Paul assured the Philippians.
  • If you harbor ill-will toward someone, resolve it quickly and begin to uphold that person in prayer.

For Further Study

  • Read Matthew 5:23-26; 18:21-35. What were our Lord’s instructions regarding forgiveness and reconciliation?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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“PAUL AND TIMOTHY, BOND-SERVANTS OF CHRIST JESUS” (PHIL. 1:1).

If exalting Christ is your goal, anything that furthers the gospel will bring you joy.

Next to the Lord Himself, Paul is perhaps the greatest illustration that joy is not necessarily related to one’s circumstances.

Paul wrote to the Philippians from a prison cell, yet he spoke of joy and contentment. His life was a series of difficulties and life-threatening situations (see 2 Cor. 11:23-33). In fact the Lord, shortly after confronting him on the road to Damascus, said, “[Paul] is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:15-16). Yet in every situation Paul found cause for rejoicing.

His compelling desire to exalt Christ drove him to endure trial after trial. When Christ was exalted, Paul rejoiced. That was evident in Philippi where, after a brief ministry in which God redeemed a businesswoman named Lydia and expelled demons from a slave girl, Paul and Silas were falsely accused, unjustly beaten, and thrown into prison. Even that didn’t stifle their joy, for at “about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25).

That was such a powerful testimony to the joy of the Lord that soon afterward the jailer and his entire family believed the gospel and were saved.

Even when imprisonment prevented Paul from ministering as effectively as he desired, and when others usurped his apostleship and preached Christ out of envy and strife, he remained undaunted (Phil. 1:18). His circumstances were secondary to the priority of exalting Christ.

Is that your perspective? It can be! If your priority is to exalt Christ in every circumstance, whatever furthers that purpose will bring you joy.

Suggestions for Prayer

  • Ask the Lord to help you maintain the priority of exalting Christ in every area of your life.
  • If you feel envy or resentment toward others who proclaim the gospel (Phil. 1:15-17), confess that and learn to rejoice whenever Christ is exalted.

For Further Study

  • Read Exodus 15:1-21 and Psalm 99. How did Moses, Miriam, and the psalmist exalt the Lord?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.crossway.com.

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