Category Archives: Prayer
Our Heavenly Father – through Jesus the Son – by the power of the Holy Spirit, I ask that You would:
- Transform and Save people from their selfish sin by faith in Christ alone (2 Cor. 5:15, 16-17, 21; 1 Pet. 2:9-10; Eph. 2:8-9).
- Continue to transform into the likeness of Christ those whom you have saved (2 Cor. 5:14; 1 Pet. 2:11; Eph. 2:10).
- Grant boldness to go into the world and proclaim Jesus to others, fulfilling the Great Commission (2 Cor. 5:18-20; 1 Pet. 2:9, 12; Matt. 28:29-20).
Lord, do what you want to do in me and through me; for your glory, the good of others and my joy! Amen!
Sometimes we Western Christians read the Bible and it seems like another world to us – perhaps like Middle Earth or Narnia. In Acts, Luke records continual opposition that we can hardly fathom. But the free west is the anomaly, not the norm. Even as I type people are being persecuted and even martyred for trusting Jesus Christ, who was persecuted and murdered for them.
Here’s an example from the latest edition of World Magazine:
In late July, Shi Enhao, a house church leader was arrested and sentenced to two-years of “re-education through labor” for holding illegal meetings and illegally organizing religious meetings. Zhang Mingxuan, president of the house church alliance, wrote to Chinese president Hu Jintao asking for Shi’s release and calling for freedom of worship: “Even if you misunderstand me or even kill me or imprison me, I still have to tell the truth,” (Reminds me of Acts 4:20) Zhang said in a letter. “As long as Christians can freely worship God, I wouldn’t mind dying for this cause.” He said.
Please pray for our brothers and sisters (universal church) that God strengthen them with the joy set before them (Heb. 12:12) and that they would proclaim the mystery of Christ clearly (Colossians 4:2-4), just as every Christian should.
I was up early this morning walking and talking. I spoke to God for a good 25 minutes about some things that were on my mind – as if He did not know. But it was rewarding to imitate those in the scriptures who daily depended on God in prayer.
Also, it is an amazing thought – if we would stop to think – that the God of the universe is the God who hears. As with all thinking, this helpful thought could be a deadly thought if I were to think I must therefore be special in and of myself. I am what I am because of God. But I have grown to recognize the awe of it. God hears me through the one mediator, Jesus Christ, and not just me, but perhaps billions of people who are like me in their need of God. Mind-boggling.
So I finished up my walking and talking and I was able to be still for a few minutes and I asked God to speak to me. I don’t want to just talk, I want to listen. (Make sure you understand that I believe the first and primary way we do that is by reading and hearing the Bible.)
Long story short, I was thinking about a funeral, and then a wedding, and then I realized as though a light bulb came on, that I love the praise and approval of people. Now I already knew that. After all everyone is narcissistic on some level. But to know it and to be able to pinpoint it vividly via past actions was helpful.
Am I now cured from wanting the praise and approval of people? No. I will have to die daily and surrender that to Christ as the Spirit reveals it to me progressively. But awareness is necessary for response and change.
Now you are not my priest and this isn’t just a cyber-confession. I wrote this in part to help those who might read it. So here are some parting and probing questions:
- Are you listening to God in His word? Do you know the word of God well enough to know when God is speaking to you about specific situations in your life? I think we are sometimes scared of saying things like I wrote above because we are afraid of the abuse of “God told me.” It’s a possibility, but so is the possibility of the abuse of ignoring God out of fear where something might go. If we know the intention of God’s word we can guard ourselves from revelatory sensationalism and abuse, while having confidence that God really does speak to us as He did Philip in Acts 8 and Peter in Acts 11 – to name just a few.
- Do you humble yourself and ask God to speak to you? Some of us have not because we ask not (James 4).
- Do you ever slow down and have moments of silence (Ps. 46:10) so that you can mediate on God’s character so that you can think about your thoughts and actions in light of who God is?
- Has God gently and lovingly corrected you lately? Has He revealed something to you that would bring you to the point of responding to who God is? If not, then why not? We know we are children of God when we experience the loving correction of God (Hebrews 12).
God wants to change us, but we cannot be changed if we are ignorant about the change that needs to happen. Have you known God in His word and listened? Ask and you will receive (Matthew 7).
Nothing is so easy to talk about as is prayer, and yet we pray so little.
See if you are brave enough to ask yourself these “what ifs” to determine if you really pray.
I prayed as much as I watch TV?
I prayed as much as I look at Facebook?
I prayed as much as I drive to and from places?
I prayed as much as I read the newspaper?
I prayed as much for someone as I do worrying about them?
I prayed as much for God’s strength and energy as I do trying to muster up my own?
I prayed as much for the nations as I do hearing about them in the news?
I prayed as much for His Kingdom Come as I do working on my own kingdom?
I prayed as much for people who irritate me as I do thinking about how they irritate me?
I prayed like God was more important than sleep by praying the first 30 minutes of the day?
I prayed without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17)?
I prayed as much to God as I do thinking about God?
I prayed like Christ made me and is speaking me into existence even as I type these words and you are reading them (Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3)?
I prayed like life matters because eternity looms?
I prayed like life is short (James 4:14)? Because it is.
I prayed as though I really needed Christ, for without Him I can do nothing (John 15:5)?
Nothing is so easy to talk about as is prayer, and yet is done so little. No doubt because we love to depend on ourselves even though we cannot depend on ourselves for we are nothing without the God who created us, speaks us into being, and loves us with the death of His son.
E.M. Bounds (1835-1913) has been teaching me how prayerless I am and how much I need to pray and depend on the LORD God. If you think that you have cornered the market on praying, I suggest you pick up Power Through Prayer and test yourself. Here are a few quotes from his challenging and inspiring book on prayer.
“Our laziness after God in prayer is our crying sin.” E.M. Bounds
Prayer is the creator as well as the channel of devotion. The spirit of devotion is the spirit of prayer. Prayer and devotion are united as soul and body are united, as life and hearts are united. There is no real prayer without devotion, no devotion without prayer. People must be surrendered to God in the holiest devotion. Our aim, aspirations, ambition are for God and to God, and to such prayer is essential as food is to life. E.M. Bounds
Do you depend on God in prayer? What if you did?
If the truth be known, and it will be in heaven, we are good at talking about prayer and often pitiful at talking to God. We have been exhorting the people of Eagle Heights to take prayer cards and engage the global mission of taking the gospel to all nations by crying out to God in prayer for the advancement of the gospel to all the nations. But how can we consistently know who and what to pray for? Here’s what I do know, we will not go to the nations until God changes our hearts as we plead for the nations. Here are a few intentional and everyday ideas for praying for God’s kingdom to come.
- You can meet and learn about an international student who is studying at OSU. In Stillwater, Oklahoma there are 1780 students who represent 113 countries from every part of the world. http://union.okstate.edu/iss/Resources/Statistics.htm
- Core Groups can adopt a people group and pray weekly for God to raise up gospel witnesses among them.
- You can visit the website www.operationworld.org and pray for a people group every day. Operation World is “a definitive prayer guide to every nation.”
- You could give generously to missions. When you invest your treasure, your heart and thoughts will follow (Luke 12:34).
- You could read the news headlines prayerfully and cry out to God. Here are some headlines from November 22 as an example of how to pray for people groups in countries:
- “North Korea nuke revelations stir US policy worry” (57% unreached)
- “Over 330 die in stampede at Cambodian festival” (71% unreached)
- “Saudi king heads to US for medical tests” (62% unreached)
- “Experts: Demand in China fuels tiger poaching” (83% unreached)
- “Pakistani Christian woman falsely accused of blasphemy” (97% unreached)
- United States of America (16% unreached)
Pray, Give, Go………. Everyone of us can and must participate in the mission.
Bo Blakey is a friend of mine who has been the pastor of several churches and is currently working on his PHD and writing his dissertation in the area of church planting. We recently exchanged a couple of Facebook messages that he initiated by essentially asking, “What is wrong with our churches?”
It is a question that many are wondering and the reason they are wondering is the fact that 70 percent of our churches are either plateaued or declining. I guess the good news is that 30 percent must be growing. If growing churches (spiritually and numerically) were baseball then .300 would be an all-star average. But this is far more important than baseball and that is why the decline of churches and ultimately Christianity in the United States is so alarming. The reality is that the lack of growth in our churches and the multiplication of new churches ultimately indicates that we are not keeping pace with the growth of the population, which ultimately means that Christianity is in decline in the U.S.
To Bo’s question, and the stark reality behind the question, I simply responded that perhaps the answer is as easy (and as difficult) as prayerlessness. I’m not talking about praying at the table before meals or at the dismissal prayer at our worship gatherings, I’m talking about crying out to God like our lives and the lives of others depended on it. I’m talking about praying like Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 20:12. “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.” I’m talking about praying like Hannah in 1 Samuel 1:9-13 where the text says about Hannah that she “prayed to the Lord and wept bitterly and continued praying.” I’m talking about praying like the only person in the universe who can help us is God through Christ Jesus.
That’s my two cents. But the reason I am really writing this blog is to let others see what Bo said in response to my response. Take the time to read the words of someone who has done a lot of reading on churches that are growing and reaching people. Perhaps God will use these words to strengthen the reality that God wants us to pray for our good and His glory. Without further ado:
I don’t know if I have told you but I am writing my dissertation in the area of church planting, primarily to understand what the key ingredients are to making church work. Interestingly enough, what is working in church plants should, could and does happen in established churches as well. It is funny you mention prayer, because you will not find it in any purpose statements, I have never seen it as part of a church vision, you will be hard pressed to find it as a priority in most churches.
I am as guilty as any. But I have come to believe and I believe some of my research would reflect prayer is the one key ingredient that has remained an intangible with regard to the entirety of elements you could image for a church. Because of faith and its unique nature of connecting humanity to God, prayer has the freedom and flexibility to elicit responses that encompass a spectrum of emotions and behaviors. More than any other trait, purpose, vision, value or ingredient, prayer is the link that drives passion in growing churches and the obligatory actions in others. When asked to give the most important aspects of church planting, nearly all of the pastors I talked to listed prayer as being the most critical.
While none of the research revealed prayer as a functional element of church life, all the evidence revealed that prayer was a recommended catalyst in virtually every stage of a growing church. In one of the most recent studies, it was revealed that prayer is the engine for the differences between churches that are changing and growing from those that are dying (Rainer & Stetzer, Transformational Church). While studies and opinions may differ regarding established churches and church plants, the concluding results remain paralleled, in that prayer is essential in a growing church.
I think most pastors know this, it just happens that we cannot always get our people to buy into it. There have been seasons where I felt like I had a great pray thing going in a church, it sort of sputtered like a lawn mower starting after a long winter. You pull and pull until it finally begins to take off, blowing smoke, sputtering for air, but all the time the RPMs are increasing and you know any minute it is going to take off and run wide open, then it dies, and you start pulling again.
I think some pastors get tired of pulling and choose to start something else, you never fully give up on prayer and teaching the people its importance but it seems like a battle you cannot win… but I tell you my brother it is a battle we cannot lose!! If one of my goals is to teach my children the harms of drugs, then I will never relent until they understand. You have possible heard the commercial where a parent comes on the screen and says “Do whatever you must do to keep your kids off drugs” …well I have a good friend who’s now 28 year old son has been addicted to drugs, in and out of rehabs since in his teens, and when the mom sat on the couch and spoke those words to me “Do whatever you must do to keep your kids off drugs” I got it, and will not ever forget it.
You and I both know the importance of prayer, let us be faithful to the end, that people understand what it means to us as individuals and to the church.