Don Goulding - Blog

Successful Prayer

Cm79EftUkAA5zIaAren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. Even all the hairs on your head are numbered. So do not be afraid; you are more valuable than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:29-31 NET_FL)

The night was thick with hot air and loud worship music. As the evangelistic festival in Tamil Nadu unwound, three Indian coeds in lime-green, apricot, and electric-blue saris pressed through the crowd for prayer. Most people ask for healing or general blessing but these daughters of Christ were different.

“The Hindu landlords won’t rent to Christian girls and for months we’ve tried to find a safe place to live.”

The ladies pulled their shawls over their heads and bowed while I lifted a prayer to heaven on their behalf. Swirling into the either was compassion, doubt, and a little faith—mostly theirs. Foreigners often think missionaries have a hotline to heaven. I know otherwise. So what are the variables for successful prayer?

When Jesus compared us to sparrows he said we’re precious to God. We matter, we’re not ignored. We are encouraged to pray for our needs, then wait on God’s answer. My job is to trust that his reply and timing are better than my understanding of what is best.

Jesus never said we’d always make sense of God’s answers but he unequivocally promised we’d never have cause to fear. Prayer that takes away fear is the definition of successful prayer.

The girls returned the next evening bubbling with excitement. Their prayer had been answered that morning and they had a place to call home. God used his divine timing to confirm this was no coincidence, it was his tender love at work.

Prayer: Compassionate Father, thank you that I can wholly trust you.

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Below the Waterline

orcaThings that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him.” God has revealed these to us by the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:9-10 NET_FL)

Twin rushes of air erupted from the cobalt sea. My kayak was a mile from the shore of my home in Washington State when two killer whales breached. They exhaled and thrust their dorsal fins above the water. My heart pounded as I took in every bend and scar on the triangular fins. The magnificent creatures dove again and I made an adrenaline pumped race into their swirling water.

Then it hit me. I only saw the seven-foot dorsal fins and not the enormous animals below the waterline. Alone in the open water, I didn’t want to run into whales, only to see more dorsals.

I often approach the crucifixion of Jesus like I approached those whales. I want to know the historic facts of his death and resurrection but I run from an encounter that could destroy the old me. A safe redemption at the surface is fine but don’t take me down to where my heart must reform.

Instead of paddling off to secondary doctrines, prophecies, and worship styles, it’s time to man-up and meet the enormity of the gospel. By the discipline of meditation, the Holy Spirit carries my heart to depths where I can’t depend on physical life, to where love becomes the medium around me, and the reality that God died for men is shocking in its magnitude. 

Beneath the waterline of grace, I can’t contribute to salvation, defend myself, or even breathe. I can only stare in wonder at God’s death for me. Minuscule flailing sinner that I am, I lose every hope of survival except by the beneficence of the whale before me.

That massive carnivorous entity might easily swallow me. Instead, he nudges me to the surface. When I break through, I have something new, not more head knowledge but more love. For who can be spared by that majestic creature and not love in return?

Prayer: Spirit of God, embolden my heart to plunge the depths of grace.

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Death to Death

WolfInSheepsClothing2[We are] always carrying around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our body. 2 Corinthians 4:10 (NETFull)

Life throbs with dignity while death feeds on desecration. Life and death are two great enemies and my body is their battleground. They are both inside me plotting the demise of one another. Only one can win for eternity.

The death of Jesus was not death to life, it was death to death. He died to defeat death, both at the final resurrection and now in my body. I am to carry his death to death and apply it to whatever will not enter heaven. Pride will never make it into God’s presence, so if I humble myself now, then death dies and life lives.

Wars are won by a series of victorious battles and triumph only comes to me as I choose life in the daily skirmishes. Death ruthlessly dresses up as life. It flays a living gift and pulls on its skin to pose as life. Family, jobs, food, ministry—anytime I concentrate on a gift more than on God, then death is cloaked as life. The insidious goal is for me to worship temporal gifts until I’m attached to them when they burn in the last day.

This is a bloodthirsty war. At each offering of false life, I must club it over the head with the reminder that only Jesus with me, in me, and through me will satisfy. Everything else is death and must be put to death in my heart.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, let me carry around your death to the things of death.

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