Archive for the Prayer Category

A Part-Time Monk

Posted in Prayer on October 22, 2013 by nmpreach

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend SUMMIT – a gathering of believers at Abilene Christian University.  While there, I picked up a book (surprise) by ACU professor Randy Harris.  Soul Work: Confessions of a Part-Time Monk is only 156 pages long.  That said, the information contained is worthy of at least double that.

I think what caught my eye initially was a Church of Christ (non-instrumental) professor claiming to be a part-time monk.  After reading the back of the book and introduction, I realized the work was on prayer.  But this one seemed different.  Usually, books on prayer are tedious and work through every passage on prayer.  I’ve realized for years my need to have a stronger prayer life.  I suppose that is part of becoming like Jesus.  But the cumbersome books on prayer on my shelves are many.  And those that have really spoke to where I’m at are few and far between.

I figured I had enough time to devote to 156 pages.  As a friend says, “Come on people!”  That’s nothing.  So I picked it up and began to read.  Let me say this:  Smart.  Funny.  Impactful.  Harris spent forty days with hermits (and more importantly) and God.  As he says, if you want to learn about prayer, learn from those who are good at praying.

I love Harris’ humor.  He’s willing to laugh at himself and the Church.  He makes serious points using humor – a great gift for a communicator.  Although I don’t know Harris, I can hear and see his heart throughout the book.  His genuine desire to be a follower of Christ jumps off of every page.  The book challenged my definition of prayer and offered many things I need to work on.

Let me encourage you.  If prayer is something you’re interested in (you should be if you’re a follower of Christ), read this stuff!  You will laugh.  You will be challenged.  You will be convicted!  For those of you close, it’s on my shelf (and will be for some time).  First come, first served.

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Prayer Works…Or Does It?

Posted in Prayer on September 24, 2013 by nmpreach

You and I’ve seen (or possibly used) the phrase “Prayer works.”  Often times, the person speaking/writing has prayed about something and whatever their need or desire has come to fruition.  Aunt Sally’s cancer is in remission.  The kid has made a smooth transition and made friends.  You’ve passed your college exam.  After all, prayer works!  It’s easy to say God is good.

But what if the cancer doesn’t go into remission?  What if the kid struggles with socializing and has no friends?  What if you bombed the exam?  What if the person you’ve prayed about for so long dies?  Are we quick to say “Prayer works?”  Does the phrase “God is good!” roll off our tongues?

My answer is this:  When we find ourselves in a religious setting e.g. church, small group, Bible study, around Christian friends, we say things we don’t really mean.  We say things that we think those around us expect to hear.  But often we don’t really believe it.  So we say “God is good!” or “Prayer works!” while a small voice from within tells us that we didn’t get what we wanted.  So it doesn’t really “work.”  This is the time our faith is really tested.

Here’s the thing:  What is prayer?  Because how we answer the question means everything.  To say “Prayer works” means we see God in a certain way.  We tell Him what we need and He responds with the way we want.  This is the Santa Clause mentality.  But is that really prayer?  I want you to consider this definition of prayer.  Prayer is removing the focus off of me and acknowledging God.  In other words, when I see God for who He is, the last thing I think of is bringing a “laundry list” of desires to Him.  When I know that He is developing me into the person He wants me to be (Romans 8:28; James 1), I’m assured that although my prayers may not be answered the way that I want I know He knows what’s best.

There’s a teaching within the Church that holds God controls everything.  The theological idea is called determinism.  So God caused Aunt Sally’s cancer.  He doesn’t allow the kid to socialize and gain friends.  He “needs” that loved one in heaven so he causes that person to die.  Have you heard that?  Can I offer a one-word summary of this idea?  BULLCRAP!  It frustrates me to no idea when I hear well-meaning believers to use words/phrases that fly in the face of the God of the Bible.  It’s just not well thought out.  God is the giver of life.  He doesn’t need anything!

There are things that hold an enormous mystery.  In other words, we pray by faith.  And we realize that there are times when God doesn’t answer the way we want (or is silent altogether).  And we continue to pray – acknowledging God and His knowledge.  When we see prayer as being acknowledgement of God (and not about us) it changes the entire scenario.

In summary: prayer does work.  But it works being in that it eliminates me as being the center of the world and places the focus where it should be (God).  Obviously, this takes a tremendous amount of faith.  So that when I pray and don’t get the answer I desire, I know God is more powerful than anything in creation.  Therefore, I know God is working out all things.  It’s that God focused mentality that flies in the face of the Santa Clause mentality of which we’re aware (and often times proponents).

Push back?  Tell me about your idea of prayer.

A Thorn (2)

Posted in Prayer, Scripture on August 9, 2012 by nmpreach

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.  Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me.  But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, my power is made perfect in weakness, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Cor 12:7-10

We had a great conversation yesterday regarding this text.  Today, we continue with the highlighted portion above.

How often or how many times do you pray about some challenge in your life?  I’ve heard some say one prays about something and then trusts God to act.  Therefore, that’s the only time they pray about that particular “problem.”  The first time one hears that, it sounds really spiritual – almost as if that person has monumental faith.  But after some life experiences, some experiences through prayer, and general growth, I’ve come to understand that’s not true.  In fact, it’s the opposite.

In Luke 18, we’re given the parable of “The Persistent Widow.”  Verse 1 reads, “And he told them a parable to effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart” (ESV).  The parable speaks about the widow and injustice towards her.  She pleaded her case to a judge more than once and finally got an ear.  Although the judge was unrighteous, he was used as a teaching lesson for followers of Christ.  Jesus said God wants to hear from us that way.  He’s about restoration, redemption, and peace.  And hearing from us makes his heart sing.  I love what verse 7 says: “And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them?”  In other words, continue to pray by faith!

Our text says Paul prayed three times.  But maybe we get caught up in the details.  Maybe he’s speaking about praying again and again and again and…  You get the idea.  There are times when God wants to see us display faith by how we pray.  Sometimes He answers right away with a “yes” or a “no.”  And sometimes he says “wait.”  Time doesn’t contain God.  I need to write that again.  TIME DOESN’T CONTAIN GOD.  But praying continually about something shows what we believe about his providence.

What have you prayed about – for weeks?  for months?  for years?  Maybe it’s a relative that needs to come to Christ.  Perhaps it’s a relationship restored.  Maybe it’s about health, finances, or other struggles.  Whatever it is, keep praying.  Never give up!  Be blessed.

Pray

Posted in Prayer on January 25, 2012 by nmpreach

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve set out this year to grow in my prayer life. I want to pray like Elijah. Like the man of faith in James. Like God desires.

It’s interesting that we’re beginning a study on prayer in a small group tonight. In just a few weeks, another group will study Mark Batterson’s Circle Maker. I’m stoked! I’m excited for my own spiritual growth. But I’m also excited to see what God has in mind for the Church at FCC.

God has amazing things in store. I believe that because it is no coincidence that as one group begins a discussion on prayer, another is about to embark on a study. God is in control! And I look forward to sharing what He has done with the studies.

A praying person is a person of peace. A praying church is right where God wants them to be. Prayer is acknowledging God and His power. As E.M. Bounds writes, “Prayer is the basis of Christian character, the Christian’s business, his life and his living.”

Unanswered Prayer

Posted in Prayer on July 19, 2011 by nmpreach

Jay Adams wrote A Theology of Christian Counseling, which has become somewhat of a classic among counselors who would adhere to Christianity.  I was struck today by a list Adams provides in regards to why prayer is often unanswered.  Thoughts?  I’d love to hear them.

1.  Hypocritical Prayer – One who prays something with his lips while his heart is “yelling” something else.

2.  Unbelieving Prayer – Do you really believe God will act if you pray?  Again, it’s more than lip service.

3.  Resentful Prayer – Are you reminded of a stressed relationship while praying?  Leave your gift at the altar, go take care of the relationship, then return and offer your gift.

4.  Pharisaical Prayer – Do you pray with the motive of making yourself look good?  feel good?  Are you constantly comparing yourself to others – especially those you think don’t have it together?

5.  Self-Centered Prayer – Do you treat God like a genie?  Are you more concerned about yourself or others?  Are you looking for a lesson to learn?

6.  Unbiblical Prayer – How do you know what God’s will is?  Read John 15:1-5 and then set out to “remain in (Jesus)”.

7.  Self-Addressed Prayer – By what authority do you pray?  If it’s not by the authority of Christ, your prayer is worthless.

Of course, there are times when God’s timing is not our own.  Sometimes He simply tells us to wait.  However, we’ve all experienced unanswered prayers.  And the list above is a great place to start taking inventory.  Something to think about.

Bounds on Prayer

Posted in Prayer on April 18, 2011 by nmpreach

Woe to the generation of sons who find their censors empty of the rich incense of prayer; whose fathers have been too busy or too unbelieving to pray, and perils inexpressible and consequences untold are their unhappy heritage.  Fortunate are they whose fathers and mothers have left them a wealthy patrimony of prayer.

– E.M. Bounds

Woe to the generation = Have you ever thought about your impact upon those whom you influence?  For those of us with children or grandchildren, it’s a tremendous responsibility.  It’s been said, “Decisions today affect what happens tomorrow.”  It’s true.

Whose fathers have been too busy or too unbelieving to pray = Too busy to pray?  Why isn’t prayer the first thing that comes to mind?  How can we be busy without praying?  And as for belief?  Does our weak prayer life “shout” that we don’t believe?

Fortunate are they whose fathers and mothers have left them a wealthy patrimony of prayer = Does prayer have that affect?  Bounds seems to think so.  If you want to bless your children – to leave them something that lasts – don’t stress about the latest gadget.  Pray for them!   And do it often.