July 25, 2011
When it comes to prayer, I often find myself experiencing cycles of highs and lows, ups and downs. Sometimes I can’t wait to pray, and prayer comes easily as I pour out heartful thoughts and feelings to the Lord. Other times, however, prayer is hard work, as I find myself putting prayer off and being distracted by other “more important” things.
I’ve found myself more drawn to prayer this summer, and I think perhaps I might be able to identify why. You see, this summer my wife and I have had many opportunities to have friends and family in our home (I think when all is said and done, we will have had people in our home for over a month total). As we’ve spent time with each of our visitors, we’ve heard about what’s going on in their lives. Without going into details, we’ve heard some exciting ways our friends are being challenged and are experiencing God’s goodness, and at the same time we’ve wept with friends over heart-breaks and disappointments. And long after the company leaves, prayer is made for each of their situations.
So, the connection I’ve noticed is this: when I’m making it a point to really connect with people, I find it very easy to pray. How could I not pray in light of what’s going on in your life? But on the other hand, when I am isolated and disconnected, prayer is difficult. How can I regularly make selfless prayer when I’m living a selfish life? Hopefully I’m noting stretching the facts to say that the same pattern was true in Jesus’ life. Not that he was ever a selfish prayer! Rather, many of his most selfless times of prayer came when he was surrounded by people. It was in these times that he withdrew and prayed . . . the whole night.
So, are you struggling with prayer? Get involved in the lives of others, get out of your own little world, and as you pour yourself into the lives of others, I think that like me, you’ll find it difficult not to pray.
February 28, 2011
I’m struck by Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:7, “But when you all pray, do not babble on and on like most people, for they think that they will be heard because of their many words.” Several things about this verse caught my attention:
1) I often (mistakenly) evaluate the quality of my personal prayer-time by length, wordiness, and eloquence.
2) This often keeps me from praying because honestly I do not feel like stringing together “fine” prayers.
3) Jesus teaches that my notion of prayer is different than his — according to him, effective prayer is often short, to the point, direct, and brief.
4) Jesus often modeled this in his own life. Most of his recorded prayers (excluding John 17, which may be considered an exception since he says he prayed this for the benefit of those who were listening) were extremely short, often only a sentence.
5) It seems that the brevity of the Lord’s prayer is often overlooked and down-played. In Matthew the prayer seems to occur in the context of Jesus’ teaching about the brevity of prayer. Context shows that Jesus has just told his disciples to pray without using many words (6:7) and to pray briefly since God already knows their requests (6:8). He then speaks the prayer (6:9-13), and in a matter of 5 verses seems to model the kind of “short prayer” about which he has just taught.
6) There will, at times, be the need for long, all night prayer sessions. The Gospels often mention Jesus having such prayer times, but do not tell us the content of his prayers on these occasions (wouldn’t you love to know what Jesus prayed on such nights? Sometimes it seems the content is hinted at, such as when he prayed all night and then immediately selected his disciples).
When I take Jesus’ words about prayer to heart, I find my own prayer life strengthened. No longer do I judge the effectiveness of my prayers by their length or verboseness, and this God-blessed simplicity fuels my prayer life. I can simply talk to God, and when I’ve told him what is on my heart — even if it is only a few short sentences — that is okay.
February 9, 2011
As many of you are aware, Dave Black — infamous unblogger — reports that his wife Becky receives her first radiation treatment tomorrow (Thursday) under the cyber-knife treatment. I feel led to fast for them tomorrow, and am saying this only so that you too might consider whether God might lead you to pray and fast for them as well. I also plan on praying specifically for the persecuted believers in Ethiopia, a concern which is near and dear to the Black’s heart. Consider lifting up this dear couple with me, and those in Africa to whom they minister, as the Blacks begin treatments tomorrow.
January 28, 2011
The apostle Paul set an example in so many ways: as a missionary, an evangelist, a theologian, and, though we often overlook these aspects of his ministry, as a prayer warrior, a hard worker, and a big-hearted, joyful individual. Paul was a man in motion. He could confidently say in his letter to the Corinthians, “I worked harder than all the other Apostles” (1 Co 15). To the Thessalonians he wrote, “Night and day I worked when I was with you so that I would not be a burden to you.” Come on, Paul, Night and Day? when did you find time to preach and minister?
But today especially I’m struck by his example of prayer. One can hardly read a paragraph from his Epistles without encountering some mention of prayer. Isn’t it amazing that he could write to numerous churches and tell each of them, “I’m constantly remembering you in my prayers!” I think it’s safe to assume that if you and I had known Paul, he would have been praying for us as well, and he would have made it a point to tell us so. He seems to leave no relationship, no circumstance, unmentioned in prayer.
And this is what astonishes me the most. Paul, the worker, the busy minister, prayed. Prayed all the time. In doing so, he was not unlike Jesus who often withdrew to lonely places to pray, and spent many a night in prayer. Is my attitude the same in prayer? I’m simply asking God to make prayer a priority in my life, not an after-thought.
January 19, 2011
Dave Black has written a post asking us to pray for believers facing serious persecution in Ethiopia. He writes
Church leaders are being hunted down, believers are being stoned and beaten, and the civil authorities are turning a blind eye. . . . My point is that there is a cost to following Jesus in many parts of the globe today. This world needs more men and women who will count the cost and then obey. Discipleship involves sacrifice.
Hebrews reminds us to “remember the prisoners, as if you were in chains alongside them, and remember those being persecuted, as if you were experiencing the same physical hardship” (Heb 13:2).
You and I may not face persecution in this country, but have no excuse not to suffer right alongside our brothers and sisters around the world by standing alongside them in fervent prayer.
January 11, 2011
Patrick has posted a great quote about prayer and reading. He quotes B. B. Warfield:
Sometimes we hear it said that ten minutes on your knees will give you a truer, deeper, more operative knowledge of God than ten hours over your books.
“What!” is the appropriate response, “than ten hours over your books, on your knees?” Why should you turn from God when you turn to your books, or feel that you must turn from your books in order to turn to God? If learning and devotion are as antagonistic as that, then the intellectual life is in itself accursed, and there can be no question of a religious life for a student, even of theology.
Don’t you find that true in your own reading and study, that you often pray as you read? Now, that is not to say that “closet prayer” is unimportant. But when it comes to choosing reading material, my favorite is the kind that draws me to my knees. In fact, I found myself doing that just today when I read,
To please people is worthy of reproach not only or primarily because it indicates that the person who tries to please others is not being fully honest, independent, and driven only by the truth. it further suggests that the way he is trying to appeal to the others is not by serving their best interest or the interest of truth, but by appealing to their selfishness or their desire to be flattered (Yoder, To Hear the Word, 6).
January 7, 2011
Join with me today in praying for George and Lynn Ainsworth and the exciting work they’re doing in Croatia.
November 3, 2010
Talked to my mom on the phone this morning as I drove to school. She told me she had just finished praying these words for me when I called:
“Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God. Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer. I find myself praying for you with a glad heart. I am so pleased that you have continued on in this with us, believing and proclaiming God’s Message, from the day you heard it right up to the present. There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears”
October 11, 2010
Dave Black posted a quote on prayer the other day (Friday, 3:43 PM) that really got me thinking. Here was the quote by Edith Schaeffer:
We all have to wait until the astonishing discoveries will one day be made, and find out whose faithful prayer in hospitals, prisons, jungles, wheelchairs, crowded city apartments, cabins in the woods, farms, factories, or concentration camps has been a part of a specific victory in snatching someone from a circle of death, or in breaking chains so that there seems to be an ease for that one in stepping into new life. I feel sure that we’ll be surprised beyond measure to discover who or how many will receive the rewards for their part in taking literally and with simple faith and trust the responsibility to intercede, to pray, to make requests day in and day out.
This made me pause and ask myself, “Do I regard prayer as something that will be rewarded by God?” To be honest, I often approach prayer with a sense of duty, but not delight. I don’t often think of prayer as something that will one day be rewarded. But Jesus seemed to connect reward with prayer, for he taught that prayer offered in secrecy is accompanied by reward (Matt 6:7). Perhaps my difficulties with praying stem from lack of belief. Do I really believe that prayer will be answered? Do I really believe that it matters, that God will reward me for doing it? Do I really believe that prayer has an effect in the circumstances and lives of those around me?
August 27, 2010
I’ve been reminded of some verses lately. Although they are paraphrased, they have encouraged me to both meditate and obey:
” Wisdom is supreme; get you some!”
I Thessalonians 5:17
“Pray, pray, pray.”