DAY 21: LORD, HELP ME TO MAKE IT RIGHT – PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

By 21 DAYS OF PRAYER, FASTING, AND FITNESS

PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

SCRIPTURE

“So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” – Matthew 5:23–24 ESV

DEVOTION

It was mid-Sunday morning, and I found myself distracted during the worship set at church. At the time, I was a college student in Pennsylvania, and the night previous, I had gotten into an argument with my then-girlfriend, Neena. I stood there in the far left corner of the room, frustrated, as I muttered through the worship song. I knew what the Holy Spirit was prompting me to do, but I was too prideful to do it. Finally, I gave in. I stepped out of the church, stood outside, and made the call. After a few rings, Neena answered, and I apologized for my part in our argument and acknowledged where I had gone wrong. The beauty of the conversation was that Neena listened to what I had to say and forgave me for my shortcomings.

Can I tell you that one conversation changed the energy of how I worshipped the Lord that day at church? I returned with praise on my lips and the peace of the Lord in my heart! By the grace of God, Neena and I would later get married, plant a church, and today we have four handsome little boys. We together practice the instructions from Jesus in Matthew 5:23-24 to this day. If we miss it on one of our ends, we prioritize making it right with each other before bringing our worship to the Lord. If we miss it with someone else we are in a relationship with, as far as it depends on us, we strive to make it right with that person. We cannot control how the other person may respond, but we can control our actions.

Today, I encourage you to re-read the above verse from Matthew 5. Notice the intentional language of Christ: “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you…” (Matthew 5:23 ESV) Jesus was clear that it may not be you that has the issue, but if you remember someone has something against you, He calls you to push pause on bringing your gift of worship to Him and go to that person to make it right.

In your attempt to make a relationship right, you will find the Spirit at work and the Lord’s anointing and blessing around the corner. (Psalm 133) The Massachusetts Evangelist, D.L. Moody, once stated: “I have never known the Spirit of God to work where the Lord’s people were divided.” My prayer is that the Spirit of God will greatly be at work in your life as you prioritize unity and live a life that strives to make it right.

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” – Matthew 18:15 ESV

PRAYER

Father, thank You for making it right with me when I was in the wrong. You didn’t wait for me to take the first step; instead, you sent Jesus to save my life. I pray we will respond to Your grace and kindness and be “make it right” Christians. That we wouldn’t take the words of Jesus lightly, but we would instead put His words into action.

Lord, I know Your desire is for Your church to be one, unified, and on mission together. Help us to walk humbly and allow Your Spirit to lead us in times of uncomfortably and confrontation. May we remember You go before us and that You promise to be with us.

I pray Your Spirit anoints our attempts to make relationships right and that our initiation will result in You getting all of the glory! I pray all of this in Jesus’ name, amen!

FITNESS

DAY 20: LORD, HELP ME TO CONTROL MY ANGER – PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

By 21 DAYS OF PRAYER, FASTING, AND FITNESS

PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

SCRIPTURE

“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” – Matthew 5:22 ESV

DEVOTION

I have this memory lodged in my head of a time playing basketball when I acted like a complete jerk. It was an evening-time game, and just a few minutes into the first quarter, I realized it would be a long night. I wasn’t a fan of the referee calling our game, nor was I fond of the team we were playing.

After a few sequences up-and-down the court, I decided to drive the ball in for a layup, and on the way up, I got bumped, thinking surely the ref would call a foul. But after hearing no whistle, I gave the ref a dirty look and could sense my anger rising. Finally, I said a comment to the ref that landed me a technical foul. My coach tried to calm me down, but I was already off the edge. I made one more negative statement, and the ref ejected me from the game. I still remember sitting there on the bench, upset, with a bad attitude, blaming everyone else for my mistakes.

And what were my mistakes, might you ask?

The immediate answer is allowing my anger to control me rather than the other way around. Anger is a tricky emotion because, on the one hand, there is such a thing as righteous anger, where we get angry about the things that anger our Lord. And yet, on the other hand, we learn from David’s words in Psalm 37:8, writing: “Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.” (Psalm 37:8 ESV)

Regardless of where you are on this topic, I would encourage you to lean into the words of James, the brother of Jesus, and Solomon, son of David, in Proverbs 14. View the two Scriptures below:

  • “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” – James 1:19-20 ESV
  • “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” – Proverbs 14:29 ESV

These two verses declare, from the Old Testament to the New, that it’s wise to be slow to anger. And unfortunately, I’ve found that when we are quick to anger, we typically say something or do something we regret. And not only do we regret it personally, but those around us are also affected.

To draw back to my basketball example above, I’m still bothered by how I let my teammates and coach down in that situation. I not only embarrassed myself, but I embarrassed my team. Anger will not only let you down but also embarrass you along the way. Benjamin Franklin, the Founding Father of the United States, once stated: “Whatever is begun in anger, ends in shame.” So, today take time to repent of any unjustified anger in your life and acknowledge to the Lord times when you are quick to anger. In those moments, pause what you are doing, intentionally breathe, speak the gospel over your soul, and be reminded that God is still in control.

“Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.” Ephesians 4:26–27 ESV

PRAYER

Lord, thank You for Your kindness and gentleness toward me. Thank You that You are no longer angry with me through my faith in Christ. Thank You for paying the debt for my sins and giving me fresh grace daily. I ask You for Your help and power in controlling my anger. I know at some point today, something or someone will anger me. In that instance, please empower me to be slow to anger and quick to bring whatever the situation may be to You! Help me to have eyes to see people the way You do. So, Holy Spirit lead me on this journey. Calm my spirit. Fill me with Your character, and may Your emotions become mine emotions. We pray all of this with confidence, in Jesus’ name, amen!

FITNESS

DAY 19: LORD, HELP ME TO SHINE – PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

By 21 DAYS OF PRAYER, FASTING, AND FITNESS

PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

SCRIPTURE

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14 ESV

DEVOTION

Have you ever thought about what the brightest city in the world is? There’s some debate surrounding the answer; however, many researchers believe it to be the city of Las Vegas, NV. My hometown! With over 12,000,000 bulbs glowing daily, National Geographic writes, “From space at night, Las Vegas is the brightest city on Earth.”

One of the bright and beautiful parts of Las Vegas is the Las Vegas Strip, featuring over 30 different hotels and casinos. Now, imagine the Las Vegas strip with all those buildings and millions of lights, but this time envision them powered OFF. Two “w” words come to mind: “weird” and “waste.” It would be weird to have that many beautiful and extravagant buildings and not showcase them with great lightning. And it would seem like a waste to have everything you need to light them but choose not to use them.

Allow this picture to draw your attention to the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:14-16, where He tells His disciples, “You are the light of the world.” Jesus expected His church to shine amid the darkness. Not to blend in or lessen our brightness but to be the light where God has placed us. Failure to do so can come off as weird and wasteful. Jesus illustrates this by referencing an oil lamp equipped with a guiding flame that suddenly one decides to place under a basket to diminish it.

As followers of Jesus, let’s pray to walk as children of light. (Ephesians 5:8) Through our faith in Christ, we are no longer bound by sin and darkness but are now adopted into the family of God. Day by day, we are being conformed to the image of Jesus (Romans 8:29), and may we remember that it was Him first who said: “…”I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”” (John 8:12 NIV) The great Prince of Preachers, Charles Spurgeon, shed light on this topic, stating, “The Bible is not the light of the world, it is the light of the Church. But the world does not read the Bible, the world reads Christians! “You are the light of the world.” O, Lord, help us shine!

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light…” – Ephesians 5:8 CSB

PRAYER

Father, thank You for waking me up today and filling me with breath in my lungs. Thank You for creating light and darkness and for putting Your light in me. Please help me to shine Your light today. I know that, left to myself, I would walk in darkness. I’m not bright, strong, or wise enough to do this on my own. I ask You for Your supernatural strength and guidance to help me be the light wherever You place me.

When I’m feeling weak or tempted to turn my light down, Lord help me find the endurance to shine through it. Lord, use me to bring brightness to someone elses day today. Shine through me, for Your glory, in Jesus’ name, amen! 

FITNESS

DAY 18: LORD, HELP ME TO HAVE FLAVOR IN MY LIFE – PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

By 21 DAYS OF PRAYER, FASTING, AND FITNESS

PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

SCRIPTURE

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” – Matthew 5:13 ESV

DEVOTION

I recently discovered a newfound liking for the tree nut pistachios. I’ve never been one to just snack on a handful of peanuts, but something about pistachios changed the game. I have a bag in my office that I’ve been working on, and recently I learned another thing about pistachios that was eye-opening for me. One thing that makes these small green-looking nuts so good is when they’re seasoned with salt! 

During these 21 Days of prayer and fasting, I decided to go with the non-salted bag of pistachios as a part of my fast. Can I tell you that salt makes a significant difference? I quickly wanted to abandon the non-salted bag for the previous salted ones because they lacked so much flavor! 

Jesus, in Matthew 5:13, makes a similar parallel to our lifestyle as Christians. He calls us the “salt of the earth.” We will either have a Christ-like flavor to our lives that people are attracted to and desire more of, or we will be flavorless people, repelling others away. When you study Christ in the gospels, people couldn’t get enough of Him wherever He went. Whether it was His teaching, miracles, or overall personality, it’s no secret that people wanted to be around Jesus. He had an attractive flavor to His life! 

In a moment of self-examination, ask yourself today whether or not you resemble that same Christlikeness. Is He continuing to attract the world to Himself through you? Or, if you were honest, would you say your Christianity is quite bland, eventless, and has little to no flavor or excitement to it? If that’s the case, today is a great day to begin asking the Lord to help you regain a sense of purpose, passion, and flavor in your life! Dr. John Stott, the famed Christian theologian from England, once stated: “We should not ask, “What is wrong with the world? for that diagnosis has already been given. Rather we should ask, “What has happened to salt and light?” O, Lord, let us be the saltiness that attracts the world back to Christ! 

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” – Colossians 4:6 ESV

PRAYER

Father, I want to pray Your words in Matthew 5:13 over my life. I know I’m the “salt of the earth,” but I don’t always feel like it. I want more people on this earth to see and experience Jesus through me! Lord, enrich my saltiness. Reignite my flavor. Give me new dreams, passions, and thoughts that lead to greater joy, evangelism moments, and discipleship encounters!

I also thank You for Your activity of grace in my life. Your presence is full of rich flavors for my thirsty soul, and You are beyond anything this world offers. I worship You because of it. Walking with You is a joy-filled adventure, and I pray I will only experience more of You and Your presence along the way. Make me into a disciple that carries that same Christ-like flavor that more people can eat off of and grow closer to You through.

I pray all of this in Jesus’ name, amen!

FITNESS

DAY 17: LORD, HELP ME TO BE A PEACEMAKER – PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

By 21 DAYS OF PRAYER, FASTING, AND FITNESS

PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

SCRIPTURE

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” – Matthew 5:9 ESV

DEVOTION

Did you know that God has called you to ministry? I recognize that may feel like a heavy thought, but if you weren’t aware, I want to encourage you with this reality. Notice the words of Paul in his second letter to the Corinthian Church: “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…” (2 Corinthians 5:18 ESV)

The word reconcile means “to restore to friendship or harmony.” (Webster’s Dictionary) Where we once had animosity with God the Father, we now have peace through our faith in Christ. (Romans 5:1) Jesus, by His grace, restored peace between sinful man and holy God and has directly placed a calling on us to do the same for others. We are all called to the ministry of reconciliation.

In Matthew 5:9, Jesus continues his mini-sermon on how to live the blessed life, stating: “Blessed are the peacemakers…” In this text, Jesus affirms that we should actively look for ways to cultivate peace where it has been broken and constantly point people to make peace with God by placing their faith in Jesus. Paul states in Ephesians 2:14: “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility…” (Ephesians 2:14 ESV)

I want to make the distinction here that Paul is not calling us to be peacekeepers, for peacekeepers can quickly become “yes-men” who will go at all costs to avoid conflict. On the contrary, peacemakers are initiators. They don’t sit back, crossing their fingers, hoping for peace. Instead, they go out and make peace where it is lacking. Christ did this for us, and He now gives us the calling and power to do the same toward others. So if today you know of a relationship in your life that lacks the peace of God on it, I want to encourage you, based on Matthew 5:9, to strive to make peace with that person. In the long run, you’ll be glad you did! 

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” – Romans 12:18 ESV

PRAYER

Father, thank You for restoring peace between us by sending Your Son. I don’t know where I would be or what I would do today if it weren’t for Christ. Thank You for loving me more than I ever knew and for giving me Your supernatural peace.

I take up my calling today to be a peacemaker, not just a peacekeeper. Please help me to live out Romans 12:18, and strive for peace with all. Where relationships are broken, please help me have the humility and wisdom to know how to make peace with that person and do it. I know I don’t have time to sit back and wait on them. I need to be the peacemaker You are calling me to be, and I, again, ask for Your help in doing that. Lord, thank You for Your peace and calling on my life to be a reconciling peacemaker. In Jesus’ name, amen!

FITNESS

DAY 16: LORD, HELP ME TO HAVE A PURE HEART – PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

By 21 DAYS OF PRAYER, FASTING, AND FITNESS

PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

SCRIPTURE

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” – Matthew 5:8

DEVOTION

I wonder how it must have felt to be Jacob after wrestling with God in Genesis 32. Or how Moses felt in Exodus 33:11 when he spoke to the Lord “face to face.” Or how about the twelve disciples? How would it have felt to do a three-year internship under King Jesus? These three examples have in common that they all were able to see God in their lifetime and catch a glimpse of His activity in their lives. Maybe you would say, “Yeah, well, that was good for them, but what about me?” Upon the authority of God’s word in Matthew 5:8, you can also have a “see God” moment!

The challenge is for ordinary people like you and me to see God; we must first have a pure heart. Jeremiah the Prophet declared, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:8 ESV) Our sick and deceptive hearts are fogged up with impurities, insecurities, and ego. So, although we may desire to see God, our hearts are distracted by looking at everyone and everything else and often consumed with ourselves. It’s for these reasons that Solomon wisely wrote in the Proverbs: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23 NIV)

Jesus communicated that having a pure heart leads to having pure eyes. The word pure means: “unmixed with any other matter.” (Webster’s Dictionary) It’s the imagery of having a glass of water that is not tainted or mixed with anything. It’s simply clear and unpolluted. This position is where Jesus wants our hearts. Clear of lust, negativity, pride, selfishness, hatred toward others, and anything else that may rob your heart of purity. When our hearts fill up with impurities, those are the things we focus on and, in turn, see. The opposite principle is also true. When our hearts are pure and filled with the things God, He becomes the One that we see, and His hand becomes the thing we see move.Oh Lord, we want to see You move!

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.” – Psalm 19:14 ESV

PRAYER

Father, it’s our deepest desire to see You move in our lives! We want to see and experience Your activity afresh. Help us to have pure hearts and pure minds. Help us take an inventory of all we allow going through our minds and hearts and what we allow our eyes to see. If it’s not pure, help us to remove it. Please give us a new taste for things that our pure and a distaste for impurity—May things we once enjoyed become bland and sour. And may the things of God become fresh and sweet!

Lord, I also ask that in the battle of purity, You empower me with the grace, strength, and wisdom I need to defeat sin and the flesh. When I feel tempted, don’t let me give in. I pray I will pick you everytime. Jesus, thank You for picking me while on the cross. Thank You for dying for my sins and impurities and rising from that grace; I want to see You, Lord, help me to have a pure heart. In Jesus’ name, amen!

FITNESS

DAY 15: LORD, HELP ME TO BE MERCIFUL – PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

By 21 DAYS OF PRAYER, FASTING, AND FITNESS

PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

SCRIPTURE

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.” – Matthew 5:7 ESV

DEVOTION

When you think about the attributes of God, what are some words that come to mind? Consider writing them down. Meditating on God’s attributes can lead to a renewal of worship while deepening your confidence in His character and ability. Revivalist A.W. Tozer once wrote, “If we take away any of the attributes of God, we do not weaken God but we weaken our concept of God.” It’s in thinking deeply about who God is that we remind our hearts of His goodness.  

One of my favorite attributes of God is that He is a merciful God. Mercy is God choosing not to give us what we deserve. What a gift from above! Find joy not just in God’s giving but also in His withholding. This morning, God chose to give you fresh, Heaven-sent, dipped in grace, mercy. How, might you ask? By not counting your sins against you through your faith in Christ.

We arrive at Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:7, as He reminds His audience that showing mercy is not a sign of weakness but a mark of blessing. Mercy is like a boomerang, Jesus adds. When you give mercy, you get mercy. Prayerfully ask the Lord where you need to show mercy in your life today. Are there some offenses you can let go of and show someone mercy how it has been shown to you? Doing so may bless your life more than you may know!

“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” – Lamentations 3:22–23 ESV

PRAYER

Lord, thank You for extending Your mercy to me. Day by day I wake up experience your mercies and grace again. I don’t deserve it, but still You give it and I’m humbled by that. I pray I would never grow cold or callous to the familiarity of Your mercy.

Father, help me not to just receive Your mercy, but to show it, as well. I want to be a mercy dispenser. Help me let things go that I don’t need to hold onto any more, and please give me the ability to love people with Your unfailing love. If it’s a forgiveness issue, help to me forgive as You have forgiven me. And by doing so, may people experience Your mercy through me and give the You glory. Thank You for Your mercy, Lord. In Jesus and amen!

FITNESS

DAY 14: LORD, HELP ME TO CRAVE RIGHTEOUSNESS – PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

By 21 DAYS OF PRAYER, FASTING, AND FITNESS

PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

SCRIPTURE

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” – Matthew 5:6 ESV

DEVOTION

The most popular sermon Jesus preached is known as the “Sermon on the Mount.” I still have fond memories of traveling to the Mount of Beatitudes, where Jesus originally preached this sermon in Galilee, Israel. Try now to use your imagination to picture thousands of men, women, and children all scattered up and down a slopping green mountain where the words of Jesus reverberated into their hearts.

The first chunk of Jesus’ sermon centered around living the “Blessed Life.” Jesus gives nine unique “blessed are” statements that we would do well to lean into and weave into our prayer lives. Found in Matthew 5:6, Jesus shines the spotlight on our hunger and thirst and the satisfaction that follows hungering and thirsting for righteousness.

My simple definition of righteousness is doing the right thing, the right way, at the right time, with the right motive. If you apply this definition to your life, you’ll begin to live righteously. The only problem is very few of us live righteous, primarily because we’re not hungry and thirsty for righteousness. We like the idea of righteous living, but it’s not always that easy when it comes down to it.

The good news of the gospel is that although in ourselves we could not hit God’s standard for righteous living, Jesus passed that test for us. Through His sinless life, sacrificial death, and triumphant resurrection, we can now put our faith in the true righteous One, and by doing so, His righteousness gets transferred to our account. Oh, what grace! Paul writes to the Corinthian Church: “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV) How sweet is that? In Christ, He extends His righteous identity to us while also giving us the Holy Spirit to help empower us to walk righteously!

Matthew 6:33 33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

PRAYER

Lord, thank You for sharing Your righteousness with a sinful human like me. I’m far from perfect, and I don’t always make the right decision at the right time with the right motives. Yet, You tell me that You love me the same and still call me Your own.

Jesus, You paid my sin debt and provided all the righteousness I need to have a right standing before God the Father. As worship artist Matt Mahar once sang in his powerful song, Lord, I need You: “My one defense, my righteousness, Oh God, how I need You.” Thank You, Lord, for my righteousness in Christ. I give You the honor and glory You deserve today, and I pray all of this in Jesus’ name, amen!

FITNESS

DAY 13: LORD, HELP ME TO FOLLOW YOU – PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

By 21 DAYS OF PRAYER, FASTING, AND FITNESS

PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

SCRIPTURE

“And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” – Matthew 4:19 ESV 

DEVOTION

Growing up, did you ever play the game “follow the leader?” This simple game consists of one person serving as the leader and everyone else as the followers. All those contributing must carefully follow the leader’s actions, for failure to do so would result in being out of the game.

The journey of following Jesus is much like this game! Over 15 times in the New Testament, we see Jesus lead with the statement, “follow me.” For example, in Luke 9:23, Jesus challenges the people to deny themselves, take up their cross (prepare to sacrifice) and follow Him. Next, in Mark’s gospel (Mark 2:14), Jesus walks up to a tax collector named Levi and proclaims the call to follow Him. Levi (also known as Matthew) accepted Jesus’ invitation and later became a great evangelist and disciple-maker. Finally, in Luke 18:22, we find Jesus instructing a rich young ruler on how he could inherit eternal life. Essentially, Jesus called him to surrender his grip on his stuff so he could fully embrace following his Savior. Sadly, when it came down to it, the young man loved his stuff more than He did Christ.
Perhaps today, you are like the rich young ruler, curious about the things of eternity and what it looks like to follow Jesus practically. In John 10:27, Jesus declares, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” If you put yourself in that young man’s sandals, what might Jesus ask you to surrender in following Him? Is anyone or anything in your life hindering you from going all the way in? I’m praying that you would hear His voice clearly and not just hear Him but lovingly follow Him wherever, whenever, and in whatever He calls you to do.
“It never cost a disciple anything to follow Jesus; to talk about cost when you are in love with anyone is an insult.” – Oswald Chambers

PRAYER

Lord, I pray that I will hear Your voice all the more clearly today. Speak to me through Your soft, still whisper and guide me in the right direction. Increase my faith to follow You in all things. Humble me when I get prideful and soften me when my heart gets hard. Help me not to swerve to the right or the left, and please help me keep my foot away from evil. I love You, Lord, and it’s my ambition and joy to follow You all my days. I pray You would use me to bring others along with me. In Jesus’ name, amen!

FITNESS

DAY 12: LORD, HELP ME TO RESIST THE DEVIL – PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

By 21 DAYS OF PRAYER, FASTING, AND FITNESS

PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

SCRIPTURE

“Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.” – Matthew 4:10–11 ESV 

DEVOTION

In the 1995 popular movie: “Usual Suspects,” actor Kevin Spacey who starred as Roger “Verbal” Kint in the film, delivered this powerful line: “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” And how right was he? Unfortunately, too many Christians today are ignorantly maneuvering through life, unaware and unguarded of the enemy’s attacks.

In John 10:10, Jesus refers to Satan as a thief who comes only to “steal, kill, and destroy.” Paul later writes to the Ephesian church, exhorting them to: “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:10-11) We have an enemy who loves to scheme against the Lord’s church and send his demonic forces to try and distract and destroy.

For these reasons alone, we must be prayed up, alert, and ready for battle. (1 Peter 5:8) As biblical commentator Warren Wiersbe once said, “The Christian life is not a playground; it is a battleground, and we must be on guard at all times.” We see this mentality modeled best by the Lord Jesus Himself in Matthew 4. Notice how He resists the devil on three different occasions and uses God’s Word to do it every time!

So today, I’m encouraging you to pray for supernatural strength to resist the devil and his demonic forces. Ask Christ to do it in and through you; He will empower you not to give the devil a foothold in your life again. Doing so will make you more joyful and will, at the same time, strengthen your faith and walk! Look at Satan and his tempters today and just tell him, “Be Gone!”

7 “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” – James 4:7–8 ESV

PRAYER

Lord, I come before You in Jesus’ name, asking You to help me resist the devil, his demons, and the temptations of this world. I pray You would fill me in fresh ways with Your presence, strength, and discernment. Father, please help me to recognize when I am off and when the enemy is trying to trip me up. Please help me not fall into his traps and schemes; instead, allow me to lead through it, fixing my eyes on Jesus. Lord, I produce newfound endurance, boldness, and mental toughness. In Jesus’ name, amen! 

FITNESS

DAY 11: LORD, HELP ME TO HUNGER FOR YOUR WORD – PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

By 21 DAYS OF PRAYER, FASTING, AND FITNESS

PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

SCRIPTURE

“But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” – Matthew 4:4 ESV

DEVOTION

My wife, Neena, recently had an intense craving for movie theatre popcorn. And not just the kind you buy at the store that says, “Just like the movies!” Instead, the actual popcorn you can only get at the theatre. Fast forward, and I am in line at the movies buying popcorn. When I got home with the goods, she was excited and grateful that she could now fulfill her popcorn craving.

The truth is that we tend to get the things we crave the most. What would your life look like if you strongly craved God and His Word? I believe this could lead to the breakthrough you need. As the author of Hebrews writes, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17 ESV) The more we read, the more we believe! This is my prayer for you – that you wouldn’t just read the Bible for information but for transformation! 

In our primary passage today, we find Jesus rebuking Satan, declaring: “…Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4b ESV) Did you catch it? Jesus indicates in this passage that we not only read the Word, but we live off the Word. This “living and active” (Heb. 4:12) book is peace for our souls, fuel to our walk, conviction when we sin, and guidance for our everyday decision-making. Paul brings even more clarity to this thought in his letter to his disciple Timothy, writing: 16 “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

“Get in the Word until the Word gets in you.” – Robbie Galaty 

PRAYER

Father, I pray You would help me grow in my hunger! That I wouldn’t just hunger for the bread of this world. Rather, I would cultivate a deeper hunger for You and Your Word! As I open Your book, please give me fresh insights and interpretations. Help me to understand Your Word. Help me to memorize Your Word. Help me to find Jesus in every story and bring Him glory in that. 

Lord, I ask that from the Old Testament to the New Testament, You reveal Yourself clearly through Your Word. And that we would fall deeper in love with the reading of Your Word. In Jesus name, Amen!

FITNESS

DAY 10: LORD, HELP ME TO FOLLOW YOUR LEAD – PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

By 21 DAYS OF PRAYER, FASTING, AND FITNESS

PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

SCRIPTURE

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” – Matthew 4:1 ESV

DEVOTION

One of the most fascinating moments in the entirety of the Bible is when Jesus went up into the wilderness for 40 days. It was during this 40 day fast that Jesus was tempted by the devil on at least 3 different occasions, and on all 3 he past every test and temptation.

And who’s bright idea was it it to go on a 40 day fast in the wilderness? You guessed it – the Holy Spirit’s idea! In Matthew 4:1, we’re reminded that the Holy Spirit will get us out of our comfort zones, just to get us into a more God-dependent zone. I’ve found that prayer and fasting will help get you there. Being tempted by the enemy and speaking truth back to his lies will help get you there. Getting alone with the Father for the sake of deeper intimacy with Him, will help get you there. And Jesus models all of these items in this passage.

When it comes to praying “Lord, help me to follow Your lead” we must pray it with a sense of readiness, willing to do whatever the Lord may lead you to do. For Peter and John, this looked like following Jesus wherever He went. And, for the once demon possessed man out of Mark 5, the Lord led him back to his hometown to proclaim the amazing works of God. On a different occasion, the Apostle Paul desperately wanted to bring the gospel to Asia and he even started making his trip there until the Spirit of God led him to go somewhere else. (Acts 16:6) The point here is that the Spirit’s calling on our lives may look vastly different from each other, however the primary purpose will always remain the same, that being to glorify and lift up the Son – King Jesus. (John 16:14)

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
Let me walk upon the waters
Wherever You would call me
Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
And my faith will be made stronger
In the presence of my Saviour” — Oceans, Hillsong United, 2013

PRAYER

Father, today I ask You to help lead me. I acknowledge that I need Your guidance, grace, leadership, and conviction for when I get off the right path. Lord, I pray You would lead me to do exactly the things You are calling me to do, as well as go to the places You are calling me to go to. 

Help me to trust Your leadership, and know that regardless of where You send me, You are already there. Thank You for being there, Father. And thank You for being for me and not against me. Lead me today, O God. I’m ready to walk with you and in you.

In Jesus name, amen!

FITNESS

DAY 9: LORD, HELP ME TO WALK IN REPENTANCE – PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

By 21 DAYS OF PRAYER, FASTING, AND FITNESS

PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

SCRIPTURE

“In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” – Matthew 3:1–2 ESV

DEVOTION

I recently had a moment while driving where my GPS redirected me to make a U-turn and go the opposite direction, I was headed in. I turned around and began traveling toward the right destination. The situation reminded me of what the Bible calls “repentance.”

The calling to repent of one’s sins is one of the core messages of the Christian faith. From John the Baptist’s charge in Matthew 3, to the first sermon Jesus preached in Mark 1:15, to Peter’s Spirit-filled appeal in Acts 3:19, repentance is central to following Jesus. The word “repent” (metanoeō) means to change one’s mind. It’s the picture of a person walking one direction and making the cognitive decision to go the other way. To make a 180 degree turn toward Jesus and His ways. This was the message of John the Baptist as he preached, and this messages still holds true for us today. May we be a people known for turning from sin and mediocracy and turn to a Savior who came to give them life and life to the fullest. (John 10:10)

I want to encourage you today to renew your mind with the words of Christ, and to step toward His direction for your life. This may require sacrifice and it will certainly necessitate faith – but it will be the best thing for you. As sin, the flesh, and the world grapple for the desires of your heart and attention, make the disciplined attempt to turn from those things, fixing your eyes on Jesus and walking in Him. (Hebrews 12:1, Colossians 2:6)

Keep in mind that the action of repentance was never meant to be a one-time thing, rather a lifestyle thing. There’s always something we can be turning away from, and there’s always Someone – who by faith in Jesus – we can turn to. John the Baptist proclaimed: “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Matthew 3:8) Affirming the idea that repentance is something we must continue in, and by doing so Christ-like fruit will follow.

7 “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. 8 It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” — Proverbs 3:7-8 ESV

PRAYER

Father, thank You that You always make room for me to come back to You. Even when I fall, You don’t cast me out. Even when I blow it, You invite me still to return. Even when I squander your gifts and the time you’ve given me, You still treat me like the prodigal sons and wait for me to come home.

Today, I want to repent of anything that distracts me from You or causes me to sin against you. I turn from the sins that are present in my life and ask You to help me wage war on those sins and temptations. Thank You Lord, that You have already won the victory and in You I have everything I need. Help me to repent of my sins and walk powerfully in You, Your grace, and Your forgiveness! In Jesus, name, amen!

FITNESS

DAY 8: LORD, HELP ME TO GIVE YOU MY BEST WORSHIP – PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

By 21 DAYS OF PRAYER, FASTING, AND FITNESS

PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

SCRIPTURE

“And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” – Matthew 2:11 ESV

DEVOTION

One thing we can learn from the “wise men” found in Matthew 2, is they brought their best to worship King Jesus. They brought expensive gold – declaring Jesus’ Kingship, the perfume of frankincense – symbolizing Jesus as High Priest, and the anointing oil of myrrh, which often was used for embalming – foretelling what Jesus would one day do to save us. Each one of these gifts of worship had significant meaning and were considered precious valuables in their day and culture. These wise men thought Jesus to be worthy of such worship and adoration and they were right for doing so.

Now, what would it look like for you to give King Jesus your best? Would it be honoring Him at the workplace? Giving it your best for Jesus in your sport? Loving your family in a way that brings glory to the Lord? All of these action items could be the thing you could practically do to bring God your best. Paul writes to the Colossians church stating: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…” (Colossians 3:23) I want to encourage you to think through all of the stuff you’re going to do today and do it all for His glory!

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV

PRAYER

Lord, today I want to give You my best. In whatever I do, whatever I say, whatever I think – I pray it glorifies you. Help me to keep this mindset in front of me. Help me to lock in and make it my priority to honor You with the gifts and abilities You’ve given me. And when I miss the mark, I pray You would convict me, comfort me, and remind to get back up again. Like the wise men from long ago, it’s my desire today to worship You and give You my very best. In Jesus name, amen!

FITNESS

DAY 7: LORD, HELP ME TO WALK WISE – PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

By 21 DAYS OF PRAYER, FASTING, AND FITNESS

PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

SCRIPTURE

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem,” – Matthew 2:1 ESV

DEVOTION

If you could be known for anything what would it be? Would it be for having the most money? Fastest car? Biggest house? Most social media following? I’m curious if having the most wisdom crossed your mind? There was once a guy in the Bible named Solomon who was granted one prayer request from the Lord in 1 Kings 3. What do you think he asked for? You guessed it. He called on the Lord for wisdom and understanding. He wanted to have the knowledge to not only know what to do but how to apply it. He wanted discernment from above to walk wisely.

Hundreds of years later we find at least three men in the Bible who carry the reputation as “wise men.” We don’t necessarily know their names or even that much about them. However, we do know their reputation: wise men. They made the decision to use their wisdom, gifts, and insight to sacrificially worship the Lord Jesus and they wiser because of it. Today, you can go to the Lord and ask Him for His wisdom from above and to help you walk wisely. James the brother of Jesus encourages: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” (James 1:5 ESV)

“Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.” – Charles Spurgeon

PRAYER

Lord, thank you for the promise of James 1:5. I acknowledge today that I do lack wisdom in certain areas of my life.

I need wisdom in my ________.

I also need wisdom with my _______.

Lord, I pray You would give me the knowledge, wisdom, and understanding to make the right decision, at the right time, the right way. Help me to walk wise. Help me to learn from my ups and downs. And I pray others would learn more about Your wisdom through me. In Jesus name, amen!

FITNESS

DAY 6: LORD, HELP ME WITH MY SELF-CONTROL – PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

By 21 DAYS OF PRAYER, FASTING, AND FITNESS

PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

SCRIPTURE

“but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.” – Matthew 1:25 ESV

DEVOTION

When an individual repents of their sins and places their faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, there’s an inward transformation that takes place. The Bibles teaches that a person moves from death to life and becomes a “new creation” where “the old has gone and the new has come.” (John 5:24, 2 Corinthians 5:17) The only way this is possible is for the Spirit of God to come down and do the transformative work. One of the beautiful realities of the Christian faith is that we’ve been given a divine helper – the Holy Spirit.

It’s impossible to live the Christian life apart from the power that comes from the Spirit. He helps us, comforts us, reminds us, and gives us fruit that reflects the character and nature of Christ. (Galatians 5:22-23) One of the most underrated fruit of Spirit is the fruit of “self-control.” The reality is you can make war with the flesh and your sinful nature and come out on top. You can win the battle!

We find here in Matthew 1:25, that Joseph demonstrated a commendable lifestyle of self-control with his new wife Mary. We can go to Jesus today and ask Him to help us have that same Christ-like self-control and discipline over our urges, nature, and temptations. You can go to Him today: “…for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” – Galatians 5:22–23

PRAYER

Lord, thank You for the gift of self-control. I acknowledge that in my own strength I’m not the strong enough. I’m not wise enough. I’m not self-controlled enough. I need Your help. Help me to walk in the Spirit, and not in my flesh. When I get upset, tempted, and discouraged – I pray I wouldn’t respond in a way that dishonors Your name. Help to have Your self-control.

Holy Spirit calm, lead me, and guide me. In Jesus name, amen!

FITNESS

DAY 5: LORD, HELP ME BE OBEDIENT – PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

By 21 DAYS OF PRAYER, FASTING, AND FITNESS

PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

SCRIPTURE

“When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife,” – Matthew 1:24 ESV

DEVOTION

What made Joseph–Jesus’ earthly adopted dad–a great man of faith? The two words that come to mind are: “He did.” On several different occasions when Joseph is mentioned in the Bible his name is proceeded by an act of obedience.

“He did.” (Matt. 1:24)
“He took.” (Matt. 2:21)
“He rose.” (Matt. 2:24)

 Joseph was a man of obedience. Perhaps, that’s why Jesus selected him to have the tremendous honor of raising Him. Obedience is key. In fact, Jesus calls out the individuals who call Him Lord by name, but don’t have the obedience to match. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46 ESV)

Today is a great day to be obedient to whatever He is calling you to do. Remember, He promises to be with you along this journey (Matthew 28:20) and with Him, what can’t you do? Paul emphatically declares: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV) If you’re struggling to obey today, you can ask the Holy Spirit to help for He promises to helps us in our weakness. (Romans 8:26)

15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,” – John 14:15–16 ESV

PRAYER

Lord, I need Your help today. Help me to hear Your voice clearly. And empower me to follow Your voice exactly. Help me not to swerve to the right or the left. Keep my foot away from evil. Lead me not into temptation. And protect me through it. I want to be obedient, even when it’s costly. And in the times when I don’t have that desire, do a work in me. Change my heart and renew my mind. Help to walk in obedience today! In Jesus name, amen

FITNESS

DAY 4: LORD, HELP ME TO KNOW YOU’RE NEAR – PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

By 21 DAYS OF PRAYER, FASTING, AND FITNESS

PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

SCRIPTURE

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).” – Matthew 1:23 ESV

DEVOTION

One of the greatest nicknames Jesus carries is the name “Immanuel”, meaning, “God with us.” Think about that for a second. God is not just in heaven. Not just in the past. Not just in the future. But, presently with us RIGHT NOW. God is closer than you may realize. And not only is He close, but He’s with us. (Romans 8:28) How marvelous is it, that the God of all creation and the Savior of the world, would know our names and desire a relationship with us? Let that good news encourage your soul today.

This reminder was given to Moses in Exodus 3, as the Lord spoke to him out of a burning bush, declaring: “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:15) Notice God doesn’t go by “I was”, but rather “I AM.” He’s present. He’s here and now. He’s near.

The great confidence we need to face the challenges of today is found in the reality that God is with us. As Charles Spurgeon so eloquently preached: “God with us… is the laborers strength, is the sufferer’s comfort, is the balm of his woe, the alleviation of his misery, is the sleep that God gives to His beloved, is the rest after exertion and toil.” It must’ve greatly encouraged Mary and Joseph to know that even in the chaos of their assignment, God was with them through it all. Be encouraged as He is with you today, too!

18 “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” – Psalm 34:18 ESV

PRAYER

Lord, thank You today for being with me. You don’t have to be, yet, You choose to be. I acknowledge Your presence and nearness in my life. I need it and I want it. I need You, Father. Please help me to walk step by step today aware of Your closeness. Help me when I drift, to draw back to the reality that You haven’t moved. That You’re still here. And You’re still the same.

 Thank You, Lord, for Your presence. Let’s walk this out together. In Jesus name, amen!

FITNESS

DAY 3: LORD, HELP ME WITH MY SIN PROBLEM – PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

By 21 DAYS OF PRAYER, FASTING, AND FITNESS

PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

SCRIPTURE

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:21 ESV

DEVOTION

One thing every human being has in common is that we all share a similar problem–the sin problem.

Sin, by definition, is missing God’s mark for our lives.[1] The Apostle Paul brings clarity to what this mark looks like in Romans 3:23, writing: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23 ESV) The gloomy reality is that at one point or another we have all failed to give God the glory He is due, as a result we have sinned against our holy and righteous Creator. We take up after our ancestors Adam and Eve who ushered sin into the world at the beginning of creation. (Romans 5:12-14)

Paul goes onto remind us of further bad news. Our sin comes with a debt payment. “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23 ESV) God owes each of us a justified wage for our sins and that wage is death.

BUT GOD.

The good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that instead of God giving us what we deserve – eternal death apart from His presence – He gives us His Son. This baby born in a manger in the small town of Bethlehem would be the One who would go up on a cross to save us from our sin problem and pay our ransom. Jesus would not only die for our sins, but He would rise from the grave confirming His triumph over sin and death. When we put our faith in Him, His victory becomes ours and His righteousness is transferred to our account. (Romans 5:21) Praise God for the Son of God who saves us from our sin!

4 “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved…” – Ephesians 2:4–5 ESV

PRAYER

Lord, today I acknowledge that I have a sin problem. My sin separates me from You and it’s costly. If I let it, it will rob me of my joy, tamper with my purpose, and strip away my peace. I don’t want that. I want to walk in You. I want to walk in victory over sin. I need Your help to do that and I ask You to empower me by your Spirit and grace to say no sin and yes to righteousness.

Spirit lead me when I feel tempted to sin. Remind me that You’re better. In Jesus name, amen!

FITNESS

DAY 2: LORD, HELP ME WITH MY FEAR – PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

By 21 DAYS OF PRAYER, FASTING, AND FITNESS

PASTOR HEIDEN RATNER

SCRIPTURE

“But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” – Matthew 1:20 ESV

DEVOTION

Have you ever heard the phrase, “Put yourself in someone else’s shoes?” I want to give you a friendly challenge today to put yourself in Joseph’s sandals for a moment.

His fiancé, Mary, had just told him that she was pregnant from the Holy Spirit and that she was carrying the Son of God in her womb. Joseph, in his utter state of panic and fear, resolved to divorce her quietly. His mind was made up until an Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and spoke these words: “Joseph, son of David, do not fear…” (Matt. 1:20a ESV)

These 3 words: “do not fear”, can change a person’s life. They surely did for Joseph. And, not only did he need this reminder, but Mary did too! In Luke 1:30, we read: “And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary…” (Luke 1:30a ESV) Shortly before this, an angel appeared to Mary’s relatives Zechariah and Elizabeth again proclaiming: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard…” (Luke 1:13 ESV) And I could give you several more accounts where God reminds His children “do not fear”, however I want you to have your own moment today!

Whatever you’re facing right now, whether big or small, hear the Lord whisper to your spirit: “Do not fear.” I once heard it put, “Don’t tell God how big your storm is, tell your storm how big your God is.” You have nothing to fear!

7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” – 2 Timothy 1:7 NLT

PRAYER

Lord, today I pray for Your help dealing with fear. I know you have not given me a spirit of fear, rather a Spirit of power. I know fear can be a liar and turn deceptive. Father, help me to be wise, encouraged, and fearless. May the only person, place, or thing we fear be You, O, Lord. For we know that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom…” (Proverbs 9:10a ESV) Today, we ask for Your help, guidance, and continual provision. There is nothing I need to be afraid of. I walk with the KING of kings. Help to remember that today. In Jesus name, amen!

FITNESS