Prayer Focus for September 2014
HOPE – a small four-letter word with big meaning!
As humans, hope is a universal concept and plays a huge part in our lives. Some would argue that we need hope to survive. Hope is linked to faith, but it is not faith in itself. The opposite of hope is despair; especially if our hope is based on circumstances and emotions. Sometimes our hope can be based on the plans and dreams we have for our lives, and if things do not turn out as we expect, our hope can falter.
To the Christian, hope is not based on our plans or a lack of confidence in what the future will bring; rather, hope is linked to trusting in God – the God of hope. We have hope because we trust in the character of God and what he is does. The Bible holds many references to hope. Paul says: ‘May the God of hope fill you with all joy…’ (Romans 15:13). The Psalmist says: ‘As for me, I will always have hope…’ (Psalm 71:14).
Boundless Hope in the Promises of God
Man’s hope is not in self, but in God alone. The Psalmist says: ‘I have put my hope in your word’ (Psalm 119:74) and it is the Word of God that gives us hope as it tells us about his boundless promises.
‘No matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ’ (2 Corinthians 1:20).
It is God’s boundless love that accounts for the immeasurable hope we find in God. This is a hope centred on the Lord Jesus Christ and his boundless love for us that was demonstrated by his death on the cross. Paul explains it so well: ‘He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins’ (Ephesians 1:7 NLT). This is the basis of our hope of salvation, our hope in our faith journey in life, and in an eternal future with God.
The whole world redeeming, so rich and so free, Now flowing for all men, come, roll over me!
(William Booth, ‘O Boundless Salvation’, verse 1, ‘The Song Book of The Salvation Army’)
The New Testament speaks about different aspects of hope:
- Our hope of righteousness: ‘We are waiting for the hope of being made right with God’ (Galatians 5:5 NLV).
- The hope of great things to come: ‘The hope of glory, Christ in you, the hope of all the great things to come’ (Colossians 1:27).
- Our hope is Jesus: ‘I, (Paul) am sent by God, the One Who saves, and by our Lord Jesus Christ Who is our hope’ (1 Timothy 1:1 NLT).
- Our hope relates to eternal life: ‘This truth also gives hope of life that lasts forever. God promised this before the world began. He cannot lie’ (Titus 1:2 NLV).
- Our hope is eternal: ‘Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope’ (2 Thessalonians 2:16 NLT).
Boundless or unending hope plays out in different ways in our lives.
Boundless Hope in Disappointment
Sometimes we face dIfficulties and trials and become disappointed, especially if we don’t appear to see the hand of God in situations. As we pray, our prayers seem to go unanswered, weakening our hope. But because of God’s boundless love for us, we can have hope, enabling us to endure in tough times.
‘We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love’ Romans 5:3-5 (NLT).
Boundless Hope in Justice and Mercy
Within society in Jesus’ day, certain classes of people were considered beyond redemption. They were labelled as ‘lost’. They were marginalised, just as many in our world today are lost and marginalised. Ours is the God of rescue, offering mercy, compassion and justice, and Jesus, because he loved, also hoped. His hope is as boundless as his love. He did not reject those who were said to have no hope. With Jesus the so-called ‘lost’ were not lost, and today there is hope through him for all who are lost and marginalised. There is eternal and boundless hope for each one of us (‘The whole world redeeming…’) because we are lost without Jesus. He calls us to extend his boundless love and offer his boundless hope to all those who are marginalised.
- On what is my hope founded?
- To what extent does my hope lie in the dreams and plans I hold for my life? Does it lie in the Lord and his plans for my life, even when my plans fail?
- What do I hope in God for?
- Which of my prayers seem to go unanswered?
- Who is God challenging me to extend his boundless love and offer his boundless hope to?
- Thank God for his redemptive work in our lives and the promise of boundless hope to which he has called us.
- Pray for those whose hope has weakened in difficult circumstances. Pray for encouragement and perseverance and that their hope in God would be renewed and sure.
- Pray for opportunities to extend God’s boundless love and offer his boundless hope to those who have little hope.
My Hope is Built on Nothing Less
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness,
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ, the solid rock, I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand.
When darkness seems to veil his face,
I rest on his unchanging grace;
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.
His oath, his covenant and blood, Support me in the ’whelming flood;
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my hope and stay.
The Song Book of The Salvation Army 745, Edward Mote 1797-1874
Unless stated otherwise, Scripture references are from the New International Version.
The Monthly Prayer Focus is provided by the International Social Justice Commission