• Praise is the heart of worship.

  • Pray without ceasing. Give thanks always.

  • Hope in God. An anchor for the soul.

  • Even a single candle can make a difference in the darkness.

  • God is good. All the time.


User-friendly devotionals with audio

  • Keys to a Vibrant Prayer Life

    By Peter Amsterdam

    Audio length: 11:52
    Download Audio (10.8MB)

    Prayer is a key component in our relationship with God, as it is our main means of communication with Him. It is in prayer that we are able to converse with our Creator.

    As Christians, we have been given the incredible privilege of coming into the presence of God as His children, due to the salvation granted through Jesus. We can speak with Him, praise, worship, and adore Him, tell Him of our love for Him, and thank Him for all He has done and continues to do for us. We can openly share what is on our hearts with Him, and express our troubles and needs. We can intercede for others in their time of need. We can bring our requests to Him and ask for His help. We can tell Him how much we appreciate the beautiful things He created, and thank Him for the multitude of blessings we each have.

    When we’re weak and weary, we can speak to Him about it. When we’ve done wrong and have sinned, we can confess, and ask for and receive His forgiveness. We can speak with Him when we’re joyful or sad, in good health or poor health, whether we’re rich or poor, for we have a relationship with the one who not only created us, but who loves us deeply and wants to participate in every aspect of our lives.

    Prayer is the main way we communicate with God. It is our means of inviting Him to participate in our daily lives, of asking Him to be directly and intimately involved with the things that are important to us. When we come before Him in prayer, we are asking Him to take an active part in our lives or in the lives of those we are praying for. Prayer conveys the reality of our overall situation, that we need Him and desire His presence in our lives.

    Communicating with God in prayer is a means of drawing closer to Him, of deepening our relationship, and in the process, it helps us to become more godly, more like Jesus. When it comes to praying, there is much to learn by looking at Jesus’ example of prayer within the Gospels and reading what He taught about it.

    One of the most fundamental things that Jesus imparted to His followers regarding prayer was about having the right relationship with His Father. In the Gospel of Mark we hear Jesus say, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You” (Mark 14:36). Abba was what a son or daughter in first-century Palestine would call their father throughout their lives; it was a familiar word, like Dad or Papa, in the Aramaic language that was spoken in Jesus’ day. Jesus used this word in prayer and taught His disciples to do the same, because it expressed the close, endearing, familial relationship believers should have with God.

    Throughout all four Gospels, when Jesus prays, He uses the word “Father.” He constantly prayed to His Father, and He taught His disciples to do the same. Jesus’ use of Abba (Father) set the tone for the personal relationship we are privileged to have with God because of the gift of salvation. We are the sons and daughters of God; not in the same way as Jesus is, but as children adopted into God’s family. When we pray, we are coming before Abba, our Father.

    “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God” (Galatians 4:6–7).

    Teachings from the Gospels about prayer

    When Jesus taught about prayer through the parables, He made comparisons to situations such as the friend who borrowed the loaves at midnight (Luke 11:5–7), or the unjust judge who eventually answered the woman’s plea (Luke 18:1–8). Through these story examples, He made the point that if the friend or the unjust judge would answer the petitions made to them, how much more would our Father in heaven answer our petitions? He demonstrates that we can have confidence that our prayers will be answered by our generous, loving Father (Matthew 7:9–11).

    In the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee, Jesus speaks of humility and confession in prayer (Luke 18:10–14). Jesus taught that pompous and pretentious prayers which draw attention to oneself are to be avoided; rather prayers should spring from sincerity of heart and motive (Matthew 6:5–6). By His example we learn to pray in solitude (Luke 6:12), to pray in thanksgiving (John 6:11), to pray when faced with decisions, and to intercede in prayer for others (John 17:6–9).

    Once, when Jesus finished praying, His disciples asked Him to teach them to pray. He responded by teaching them what is today called the “Lord’s Prayer” or the “Our Father” (Matthew 6:9–13). This rich prayer deserves a fuller explanation than can be given here, but in short, it teaches us to pray by: (1) praising God, the one who is holy; (2) expressing our desire and willingness for His will to be accomplished in our lives; (3) acknowledging our dependence on Him to take care of our needs; (4) asking for forgiveness of our sins, and (5) seeking deliverance from evil.

    Besides praying to the Father in Jesus’ name, as He instructed His disciples to do, from examples in the Gospels we understand that prayers should be offered to Jesus as well. “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (John 14:13–14).

    Jesus, through His example and through teaching and emphasizing a relationship with the Father, has shown the importance of prayer and how to pray and in what circumstances, and most importantly that our prayers should be grounded in an intimate relationship with God. We are to be like children who climb on the lap of their father, with no pretense or fear, knowing and trusting that their father loves them and will protect, provide, and care for them.

    Looking at our own prayer lives

    Prayer plays a vital role in our spiritual lives, our connection with God, our inner growth, and our effectiveness as Christians. Jesus’ example of prayer, of getting away from the busyness of His life, taking time alone in prayer, even spending whole nights in prayer, interceding for others and praying effective prayers, marks the trail for those who long to walk in His footsteps.

    When we hold up our prayer lives to Jesus’ teaching and example on the subject, how do we fare? Do we pray often? Do we pray in faith, fully believing God will answer? Do we understand that we are praying for God’s will to be done, recognizing that His will may differ from ours? Do we realize that He does answer, but His answers may not always be yes?

    It is important for us to bear in mind that God is not a “cosmic bellhop.” He’s not at our beck and call, waiting for us to order Him to do what we want Him to do. As followers of Jesus, we strive to live in accordance with God’s will, which means that when we pray, we pray both in God’s will and for His will. As the Lord’s Prayer says, “Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven.” Prayer is asking for the will of God to be done.

    Developing proficiency in prayer

    There are those who have gone before us who were accomplished in prayer, and if we follow in their footsteps and use their example as a pattern, we too can have more fruitful and rewarding prayer lives.

    The apostles gave themselves to the word and prayer and didn’t let the daily duties get in the way of what was most important for them (Acts 6:4). Martin Luther, when faced with so much to do, spent three hours in daily prayer. John Wesley devoted two hours a day in the presence of the Lord. For these greats, and numerous others who have been effective in their Christian lives, time spent in prayer played a significant role.

    While the fast-paced lives many of us live today may not allow for spending hours in daily prayer, we should each look at our own prayer life and at the time we spend in His presence, and ask ourselves if we are investing enough time communicating with the one with whom we are in what should be our primary relationship. Does our time in prayer reflect our deep desire to have Him participate in our lives, or is it more of a hit-or-miss commitment?

    Prayer isn’t meant to be a one-way conversation, with us speaking and expecting God to do all the listening. In times of prayer, we should also open ourselves up to hear what God wants to say to us, through the Bible, through what godly teachers or preachers are saying, or through getting quiet before Him and opening our hearts to hear His voice. He can speak to us in many ways: through impressions He gives, thoughts He puts in our minds, through Bible verses or prophecies we receive. Prayer is communication, and communication is a two-way street. So besides asking God to hear what we are saying to Him, we should also be giving Him the opportunity to speak to us.

    In the book of Colossians Paul says: “Continue steadfastly in prayer” (Colossians 4:2).We are called to be in continual relationship with God, in a sense having an ongoing dialogue with Him, talking to Him, asking for His guidance, praising Him, listening to Him throughout our day. This can be seen as the meaning of Paul’s general admonition to pray “continually” or “without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

    So how do we develop a better prayer life? There really isn’t any other way than by praying. How do you build up to running five kilometers a day? You start exercising or running today, and you keep it up regularly, increasing the time you run and the distance you cover as your endurance builds. It works the same with prayer. You begin by beginning.

    Prayer is our means of communicating with God, of coming into and remaining in His presence. As we climb onto our Heavenly Father’s lap, as His children, we can ask Him anything, and we can trust Him with everything. We can feel His love for us, His assurance, His care. In our time of communicating with Him we learn from Him, and in time we become more like Him.

    Originally published February 2014. Adapted and republished December 2023. Read by Jerry Paladino.

  • Dec 1 A Woman, a Slave, and a Gentile
  • Nov 29 Death Is Not the End
  • Nov 27 Seek First
  • Nov 21 Little Things Make a Big Difference
  • Nov 20 God in Three Persons: The Trinity
  • Nov 17 Walking with God through Trials
  • Nov 14 The Sacred of the Ordinary
  • Nov 13 The Holy Spirit
  • Nov 9 Current Events: Speculations and Opinions

Directors’ Corner

News, writings and thoughts from TFI Directors

  • The Book of Galatians: Chapter 5 (verses 2–12)

    The Apostle Paul taught the Galatian believers that through faith in Christ they had been set free from following the Mosaic law; however, they had returned to the old covenant, believing that they needed to undergo circumcision. In chapter 5, Paul continued to explain why circumcision, and following the Mosaic law, was unnecessary.

    Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.1

    Paul states that if the Galatians were to undergo circumcision, they would lose the benefit that comes from Christ. Here he directly deals with the issue of circumcision for the first time, as he exhorts the Galatians not to undergo the rite. He has finished giving the theological basis by which the Galatians can understand the reason for his command and the seriousness of the issue.

    The Galatians’ wish to be circumcised showed their desire to be under the law as a whole (4:21). Paul’s assertion in verse 5:2 is serious. The phrasing I, Paul, say to you points out that the words that follow are important. The issue at hand couldn’t be seen as a mere difference of opinion on a minor matter. Paul saw that their final destiny was at stake, and reminded them that he spoke with authority as an apostle.

    If they receive circumcision, they will find no benefit in Christ at the final judgment. Circumcision only “profits” if one keeps the entire law.2

    If the Galatians think they will find “profit” or “benefit” in circumcision for salvation, there will be no saving benefit that will accrue to them. If they count on circumcision for their salvation, then they can’t lean on Jesus for the same. If they turn to circumcision, they lose Christ and all His benefits.

    I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.3

    Paul reminds the Galatians of the consequences of placing themselves under the law. If they undergo circumcision, then they are required to keep the entire law. Putting oneself under the law requires perfect obedience to be right with God. If the Galatians wish to place themselves under the law, then they must keep every part of it. Of course, such obedience is impossible, and therefore the Galatians must not adopt circumcision.

    You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.4

    Paul made the point that if they tried to be justified by the law by being circumcised, they would be cut off from Christ. He didn’t state that the Galatians had already fallen from grace. He was instructing them to resist the false teachers, which showed that the Galatians had not yet come to believing the heresy. It’s likely that Paul was referring to what would happen if they turned to the Mosaic law. He left no room for compromise; they would be alienated from Christ.

    The Galatians’ options were to either follow Christ and the gospel or to accept circumcision and the law. Those who tried to receive justification from the law would be severed from Christ and cut off from grace. They were trying to bring about their own salvation instead of looking to Christ for grace and mercy. But the law and grace are opposites. The law looks to righteousness through doing and obeying, whereas grace and Christ give righteousness as a gift. If the Galatians were to accept circumcision, they would abandon grace and Christ.

    For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.5

    The hope of believers is that they will be declared righteous on the last day. In the meantime, they put their hope and trust in the Holy Spirit and in Christ. They don’t attain righteousness by doing or obeying, but rather through believing in God’s promises and in Jesus. They don’t rely on the flesh, but rather on the Holy Spirit.

    The Greek verb translated as “wait for” is used to refer to matters relating to the end of the world.6 The believers do not base their hope on their obedience, but in faith, holding on to what God has done for them in Christ. Looking away from oneself and focusing on Christ is the work of the Spirit and can’t happen through human willpower. The Holy Spirit transforms people so that they trust in God’s saving work rather than relying on themselves.

    For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.7

    Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any importance. Circumcision has no role in obtaining righteousness. Uncircumcision is also irrelevant to salvation. There is no spiritual advantage to being uncircumcised. What does matter is believing in and living for Christ. Paul repeated this point later in Galatians 6:15 and in 1 Corinthians 7:19, where he wrote: For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God.

    You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?8

    The Galatians started the race well as Christians, but as they were running, someone cut in on them. Running well points to their good response to the gospel; they trusted its message, they put their faith in Jesus rather than in their own accomplishments. However, it was a long race, and they got to the point where they were in danger of stumbling. Paul posed a question: Who cut in on them in the race? Their race has been hindered, and they are at risk of not obeying the truth—meaning the truth of Paul’s message.

    This persuasion is not from him who calls you.9

    Paul now points out that those who hindered the Galatians as they were running the race should be rejected, as they are not from God. In this short sentence, Paul states his verdict on the Judaizers. He calls their credibility into question, saying that they are leading believers away from God’s direction.

    A little leaven leavens the whole lump.10

    The false doctrine introduced by the Judaizers would spread to the whole church if it was not stopped. Paul used this same phrase in his letter to the Corinthians, when he told the leaders there to remove a man who was committing incest from the church.11 In the case of the Galatians, Paul didn’t command the church to expel the false teachers, probably because they were not members of the church, but rather came from the outside. Instead, he pointed out the bad influence of the false teachers. The Galatians must reject the false teaching, otherwise this teaching would spread. While he didn’t explicitly instruct the Galatians to expel the false teachers from the church, he instructed them not to submit to their teaching.

    I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view, and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is.12

    Even though many of the Galatian believers were deceived by the Judaizers when they heard their teachings, Paul remained confident that they would continue on the right course, as the Lord, who had begun a good work in them, would complete it. He was sure that his warnings were what the Galatians needed to hear, and that they would change.

    Paul’s earlier strong warning (5:2–4) is now balanced by his words of assurance. He believes that the Galatians will accept his correction and will continue in the faith. Paul’s belief doesn’t rest on good news from Galatia or confidence in the Galatians. Rather, his confidence is in the Lord, who will sustain the Galatians.

    On the other hand, the opponents who have been troubling the Galatians will not escape judgment. They will receive God’s retribution for disrupting the Galatian churches. Paul refers to the one who is troubling you. He doesn’t specify who this is.

    The futuristic phrase will bear the penalty gives assurance to the Galatians that those who oppose them with a false gospel will not be spared on the last day. The one who is troubling you is singular, while elsewhere (1:7) the plural, “some who trouble you,” is used. It may be that this is referring to the leader of the Judaizers. It may also be that the singular form denotes the adversaries as a whole, which seems more probable.

    The verb will bear is used with reference to the final judgment, where believers will “bear” their own load before God on the last day. The phrase, whoever he is, could mean that Paul was unaware of who the leader of the Judaizers was. However, it seems that Paul was quite well-informed about the situation in Galatia, so he could have easily known the identity of the leader. Rather than focusing on the leader’s identity, Paul emphasized God’s impartiality in judgment. No false teacher will be exempt from God’s judgment.

    But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed.13

    Paul’s opponents accused Paul of being inconsistent, in that he had allowed circumcision among the Jews but not among the Gentiles. It seems that Paul didn’t have a problem with circumcision among the Jews. In the book of Acts, we see that he didn’t have a problem with Timothy getting circumcised.14 It seems that his view was that circumcision was acceptable for social and cultural reasons, as long as it was not required for salvation.

    I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves!15

    This is a rather shocking statement! The opponents are seen as troublemakers. Earlier Paul wrote that they were those who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ,16 and the one who is troubling you will bear the penalty, whoever he is.17 The trouble that these ones inflict comes from their preoccupation with circumcision. Paul strongly states that he wishes that they would go the whole way and castrate themselves. Those who believe that circumcision is a means to becoming one of God’s people are cutting themselves off from God’s people.

    (To be continued.)


    Unless otherwise indicated, all scriptures are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

    1 Galatians 5:2.

    2 Romans 2:25.

    3 Galatians 5:3.

    4 Galatians 5:4.

    5 Galatians 5:5.

    6 Romans 8:19, 23, 25; 1 Corinthians 1:7; Philippians 3:20.

    7 Galatians 5:6.

    8 Galatians 5:7.

    9 Galatians 5:8.

    10 Galatians 5:9.

    11 1 Corinthians 5:6.

    12 Galatians 5:10.

    13 Galatians 5:11.

    14 Acts 16:1–3.

    15 Galatians 5:12.

    16 Galatians 1:7.

    17 Galatians 5:10.


  • Nov 7 The Book of Galatians: Chapter 4 (verses 4:21–5:1)
  • Oct 24 The Book of Galatians: Chapter 4 (verses 1–20)
  • Oct 10 The Book of Galatians: Chapter 3 (verses 15–29)
  • Sep 26 The Book of Galatians: Chapter 3 (verses 1–14)
  • Sep 19 God’s Kind Of Unity: An Unstoppable Force
  • Sep 12 The Book of Galatians: Chapter 2 (verses 11–21)
  • Aug 29 The Book of Galatians: Chapter 2 (verses 1–10)
  • Aug 1 The Book of Galatians: Chapter 1 (Verses 11–24)
  • Jul 18 The Book of Galatians: Introduction


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